Thursday, 13 November 2008


Mrs Miggins is moulting. There are ginger feathers all over the place. She is sitting in the kitchen on a stool, a tea towel draped around her neck whilst I try and arrange the remainder of her plummage in a decent configuration. Mrs Poo and Mrs Slocombe are sitting at the kitchen table playing Scrabble and Mrs Pumphrey is in the garden being secretive.

'What am I going to do?' moans Miggins, turning her head first one way, then the other as she surveys herself in the mirror. 'I'm getting so old.' She lets out a deep sigh. 'It's nothing to do with age,' I say. 'Moulting is all part of the annual process of chicken health.' 'Do you mean, they'll grow back?' asks Mrs Miggins, a glint of hope appearing in her eye. 'Undoubtedly,' I say. 'By spring you'll have a whole new coat of feathers and you'll be returned to your former glossy, Rita Heyworth redhead glory.' 'Phew,' says Miggins, 'that's a relief. I thought I was going old and scraggy before my time.' 'No,' I laugh, arranging some rollers in her tail feathers. 'So,' continues Miggins, 'my moulting is nothing like you going grey then?' 'No,' I say. 'Because you'll never have your Rita Heyworth red-head glory days back again, will you?' says Miggins. 'Unless you hit the dye bottle again.' 'All right,' I say. 'No need to rub it in.'

Mrs Poo and Mrs Slocombe snort. 'Was that a joke?' asks Poo. 'Not intentionally,' I say crossly.
'How did you go grey?' asks Mrs Slocombe. 'Was it a slow process or did it happen over night following some kind of fright?' 'Well,' I say, 'It's been happening over the last twenty odd years.' 'I thought my feather loss might have had something to do with a fright,' says Miggins, taking a sip of her camomile tea. 'Oh yes?' I say. 'Only I had the most dreadful dream a couple of nights ago,' Miggins continues. 'Do tell,' I say, glad the subject has drifted away from my grey tresses, or silver fox blonde as I prefer to call them. 'Well,' says Miggins, 'I went to sleep as usual and then I dreamt that Michael Barrowman, you know, him from Torchwood, leapt into the garden and started doing massive jazz hands at us.' Mrs Slocombe gives a shiver. 'Nasty,' she says. 'I can see why that would make your feathers fall out.' 'And then he started singing songs from Les Miserables,' says Miggins. 'Well, that's just the limit,' says Poo, who isn't normally sympathetic to the suffering of others.

Mrs Pumphrey appears from the garden. She is holding something behind her back and has an excited smile on her beak. 'What have you got there?' I ask. I've managed to arrange a sort of girly comb-over atop Mrs Miggins' head but I'm not sure it's working that well. 'I've made a surprise for Mrs Miggins,' says Pumphrey. 'Ta-da!' And with a flourish she reveals a huge concoction of a hat, and places it on the Scrabble board across the word 'Zyjoqiffm' that Mrs Slocombe has just laid in the hope of persuading Poo it is a rare type of Scandanavian beaver fur. We all stare at the hat. It is woven from all of Mrs Miggins' moulted feathers collected from the garden and henhouse, along with some grass and twigs. There is a huge sprig of eucalyptus sticking from the top at a jaunty angle.

'Well, what do you think?' asks Pumphrey eagerly. 'Try it on, Mrs Miggins,' I suggest. She does so and we do a bit more staring. 'It makes you look like Carmen Verandah,' says Mrs Poo. 'Miranda,' I say. 'Okay, it makes you look like Miranda Verandah,' says Poo, 'whoever she is.'

Mrs Miggins is studying herself in the mirror. Slowly and carefully she removes the hat. She turns to Mrs Pumphrey. 'Thank you,' she says. 'It is a lovely hat. You are very kind. It is far too nice to wear every day. I shall save it for best.' 'Like Christmas?' asks Pumphrey, glowing with happiness. 'Like Christmas,' says Mrs Miggins and she gives Mrs Pumphrey a gentle peck on the cheek.

Age may have brought moulting to Mrs Miggins, but it has also brought a good dose of tact and gratitude. What a girl!

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