Saturday, 8 November 2008

Division of Labour

All three of the new hens have started laying eggs and this morning they sent me a deputation in the form of Mrs Miggins.

'We've created a roster,' says Mrs Miggins, taking off her wellies and shaking her umbrella all over the kitchen floor. It is raining outside, great heavy lumps of rain, being lashed around by even bigger lumps of wind. 'A roster?' I say, taking the sodden piece of A4 from her and spreading it on the table. 'Yes,' says Miggins. 'As I'm not laying at the moment and therefore the most impartial hen on da block, I've been voted to come and discuss it with you.' 'Where are the others?' I ask, looking over her shoulder into the garden which appears devoid of other hens. Mrs Miggins raises her eyes towards heaven. 'They're trying to persuade our house guest to go home,' she sighs. 'All night we've been trying to tell him he's got to face up to his responsibilites but he's not having any of it at the moment. Got any biscuits?'

I fetch the biscuit barrell and wait until Miggins has located a Jammie Dodger. 'Is that wise?' I ask. 'You know how the jam bungs up your beak.' 'I'll be the judge if that,' says Mrs Miggins. 'On your head be it,' I say. 'So who's the house guest?' 'Oh, nice chap. You won't know him. 'Barack,' we keep saying, 'you've got to stop all this crying and go home. You applied for the job and now you've got it you've got to see it through.' But he reckons if he lays low for a bit everyone will have forgotten him by January and he can go back to doing what he did before.' 'What was that?' I ask. 'Paper mache modelling,' say Miggins. 'Anyway, back to the roster.'

I look at the piece of paper that is slowly drying out and sticking itself to the table. 'You'll have to explain this,' I say. 'I don't do maths.' 'Well,' says Mrs M, 'the others say that now they've started laying, they are prepared to take turns in order to lessen the workload.' 'What do you mean?' I ask, already not liking the sound of this idea. 'Well, Mrs Pumphrey will lay eggs on Monday and Thursday, Mrs Poo on Tuesday and Friday and Mrs Slocombe Wednesday and Saturday. It's very simple.' 'And what about Sunday?' I ask. 'Really!' says Mrs Miggins, aghast. 'Sunday is a day of rest. God never ate eggs on a Sunday.' 'Oh yes?' I say, finding this very hard to believe. 'No,' says Mrs M, 'he had crumpets. Or muffins. But definitely not egg.'

'And what if I'm disagreeable to this propostion?' I ask. Mrs Miggins looks at me. She clearly hasn't considered this option. 'I mean,' I continue, 'by my reckoning, in order for you all to earn your keep you need to supply us with, oh, at least a dozen eggs between you each week. That works out at 3 each, or 4 as you aren't laying at the moment.'

'A dozen??' repeats Mrs Miggins. 'That's 12!' 'Indeed it is,' I say. Mrs Miggins puts her Jammie Dodger slowly on top of the roster. She hasn't even reached the jammie bit yet. 'I don't think they're going to like this,' she says slowly. 'It's in the contract,' I say. 'What contract?' asks Miggins. 'The contract that says I do your cleaning and cooking and entertain you with imitations of Ronnie Corbett falling off a running machine in exchange for at least 12 eggs a week between you.' I point to where the said contract is pinned to the wall next to the cuckoo clock.

Mrs Miggins draws herself up to her full height. 'I think I need to warn you,' she says,' that we have the Nearly President of the United States staying with us at the moment. He is a superpower. And he won't let you get away with these unreasonable demands.' And off she stomps into the wind and rain shouting 'Barack! Barack!!'

'Yeah, right,' I think. 'Bring it on.'

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