MY working day was recently interrupted by a telephone call from Brussels. A nice young man called Leo was conducting a survey on crop protection and wanted 15 minutes of my time.

Quite frankly I didn’t have a quarter of an hour to spare for a survey but I was quickly swayed by the promise of a staggering £1,500 donation to Farm Africa or the Red Cross. Never have I had such a high value placed on my time, let alone my opinion. Within seconds that value had risen by a third with the promise that if we rattled through the questionnaire at a brisk pace we could be done and dusted in 10 minutes.

I confessed before we started that my knowledge of crop protection and herbicides was limited. Now if Leo had questioned me on dairy, beef, poultry, in fact anything farming-related apart from crop protection I could have provided constructive and useful responses. But Leo was not put off and pressed ahead with enthusiasm, rattling off questions in quick succession, in fact so swiftly that I had to ask him to repeat several because I was still reflecting on the answer I had given to the previous question when he was ploughing through the next. If we had been in a classroom I would no doubt have been berated for not paying enough attention.

As feared, it soon became apparent that my knowledge of crop chemicals and the bodies that regulate them was indeed scant.

As a journalist I’m used to interviewing people of subjects they are hugely familiar so it was disconcerting to be so flummoxed.

Mercifully the questions eventually petered out and it was all over. True to his word, Leo had crossed the finishing line in an impressive 10 minutes. Which charity did I want to benefit from my donation? That question from Leo I could answer with confidence – £750 to each please.