Tuesday, 30 December 2008


It's a lovely day - crisp, cold and frosty. The kind of day that makes you glad to be in England, with all the traditions and quirkiness that make us unique as a nation (that's what I think; I don't yet have a flag pole in my garden but give it time!). So me and the hens decide to go for a jog in the park. Mrs Pumphrey got some day-glo pink leggings with matching headband for Christmas and she's rather keen to show them off. So away we go, with the exception of Mrs Miggins who flatly refuses to run anywhere and insists we pull her along behind us on the toboggan. 'I can't run at my age,' she says. 'You're one year old,' I say, as I tuck her into the toboggan and wrap a tartan blanket around her knees.' 'In human years,' says Miggins. 'But in chicken years it's much older.' 'How much older?' asks Mrs Poo, who is thinking she might like to ride in the toboggan too, on account of her bendy toes. 'I don't know exactly,' says Miggins. 'You'll have to ask Andy. He's a vet. He knows about these things.'

We set off in convoy, bouncing along with enthusiasm. Mrs Slocombe has eaten a lot over the last few days and has a very full crop so I suggest she wears a uni-bra to minimise bounce. 'You'll end up heading south in years to come if you don't protect your ligaments whilst you're young,' I warn, hoisting up my own treble re-inforced canvas brassiere with extra wide straps. 'Believe me, I know.' 'Heading south?' yells Miggins from the toboggan. 'Who's heading south?' 'Nobody,' I yell back. 'You just hush your beak. If you want to join in the conversation you'll have to get up and run with us.'

We do three laps of the park before I realise I am pulling a toboggan containing four hens and running on my own. They're chatting away, snuggled under the tartan blanket and there is a distinct smell in the air. I turn to face them. I hope I have a sufficiently cross look on my face. 'What's going on?' I demand. All four hens look at me. Steam is rising from beneath the tartan blanket. 'And where is that steam coming from?' I demand. The hens have the decency to look a bit sheepish. 'It's cocoa,' volunteers Mrs Pumphrey. 'Cocoa?' I say. 'Where did that come from?' 'Thermos, 'says Miggins. 'I'd offer you some only we've drunk it all.'

'Oh that's great,' I say. 'We were all supposed to be having a healthy run in the park, getting some fresh air and sunshine and you've all been sitting in the toboggan drinking cocoa.' There is a crunch and I see the edge of a Kettle crisp disappear into Mrs Slocombe's beak. 'And are those my barbacue Kettle crisps?' I shriek. 'Calm down,' says Miggins. 'And let's face it. Crisps are the last thing you need at the moment. We're doing you a favour by eating them for you.' 'What do you mean?' I splutter. 'Well, let's just say turquoise velour isn't doing your view from the back any favours,' says Miggins. ' 'Meaning?' I ask. 'Meaning you've got a fat arse,' says Poo.

So you see, just when I thought I could abandon one of my three traditional resolutions, the wisdom of hens, it seems, dictates otherwise.

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