Sunday, 30 November 2008

The sign of an unsettled mind

I am sure I read somewhere in one of the many chicken books we have that chickens don't like getting wet. Well, whoever wrote that was WRONG! At least as far as Mrs Slocombe is concerned. Fom Thursday to yesterday it rained almost constantly and Mrs Slocombe spent most of the daylight hours running about in it getting wetter and wetter. Mind you, with her feathers plastered against her body you can truly appreciate what fine muscle structure she has in her shoulders.
'Go inside!' I yell from the back door. 'Or at least under the tree or the garden table where the infinitely more sensible hens are hanging out.'
'I'm Gene Kelly!' shouts Mrs Slocombe.

I give up. I'm not going to enter into any sort of chicken zen conversation with her involving Gene Kelly.

Such was the weather and me being carless and allergic to public transport and so ultimately housebound I decided to change the layout of the furniture in the bedroom. I did various 'lying on the bed stretches' with my arms spread out and toes extended, then replicated these measurements whilst lying on the carpet in order to ascertain whether the bed could face in a different direction and, deciding that it could and and I would be able to move the sofa over there, the big chest of drawers there and the two smaller sets of drawers there and there, I set about my rearrangement.

Well. There comes a point in any grand plan where you wish you hadn't started. I reached this point when I realised I'd managed to trap myself inside the bedroom with little hope of escape other than leaping from the bedroom window and breaking my legs on the path outside. The bed was at diagonals and wedged between the wardrobes and radiator, the sofa was on its end blocking the door after my failure to shift it through the door and onto the landing. All chests had been divested of their drawers which were now scattered throughout the room in no particular order and in amongst it all sat the Dyson which I had been using to clean the carpet and skirting boards as I went of God knows how many years worth of dust bunnies. Luckily I had also had a tin of proper paraffin based furniture polish with me (ask my family - they will tell you about me and firelighters) so I sat on the floor, had a few sniffs and decided that if I had to exit the room by the window at least now I'd be able to fly to the ground.

All turned out well in the end. By a gradual process of moving each item of furniture three inches at a time I managed to rotate everything around itself and settle it into its new home. I worked up a good sweat which justified me having two shortbread fingers with my well-deserved cuppa. And I can still just about get into my wardrobe.

And even if I couldn't there was no way I was putting anything back to its original position.

They say that moving furniture is the sign of an unsettled mind. I should say so.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Winter Wonderland

It is official! We have no grass left in the back garden. The chickens have eaten it all. They have now resorted to attacking what's left of the shrubbery I got rid of during the late summer (well, I thought I'd got rid of it - however, little green shoots are appearing from the stubby remains - we must have persistent shrubbery).

'It's not looking good for our Winter Wonderland Extravaganza,' says Miggins, squelching around in the mud. 'Not very Christmassy looking is it?' I admit it looks more like a rugby pitch out there. 'However, when Mrs Pumphrey was playing pirates by standing on top of the eglu run and going 'aarrrrrrrrr,' she noticed that the front garden is still looking very lush and verdant,' Miggins continues. 'No way,' I say. 'You are not moving into the front garden. And don't go quoting your chicken rights at me either,' I continue, just as Mrs Miggins opens her beak to quote her chicken rights at me. 'I know you're being represented by Barack Obama, but until he challenges me in the Chicken Supreme High Court, I refuse to budge on my stance.'

Mrs Miggins goes off for a sulk and her second in command, Mrs Poo, takes over. 'The thing is,' she says, 'is that we would like to brighten your miserable little life by putting on a show for you.' Ah, clever, I think. Going for the psychological approach. 'Firstly, Mrs Poo,' I say,'I want you to know that my life is far from miserable. In fact, it's probably the happiest time I've experienced so far.' 'Damn,' mutters Poo. 'Okay, well, we bought a load of Lycra costumes. They'd go to waste if we didn't put on the show. And you know how much you hate waste.' This is true, I think.

'All right,' I say. 'This is what we'll do. You can have your Winter Wonderland Extravaganza on the front lawn for one performance only. All rehearsals have to take place in the back garden.' 'We'll need to have a dress rehearsal on the front lawn. And the ice-rink people will need a couple of days to set up the skating area.' 'What ice-rink people?' I ask. 'And the snow machine will be arriving two days beforehand too, to make sure we've got a good layer for the Toboggan and Ski Slides.' 'What?' I screech. 'Good, that's all sorted then,' says Poo, turning to go. 'Oh, by the way. I've put you down for mulled wine and mince pies. Is that okay? Good!'

Yes, it's official. My miserable little life has been taken over by a bunch of pushy, lunatic hens. And I couldn't be happier.

Monday, 24 November 2008

A cold snap

My goodness but it's been chillly around the gorbals these last few days. Actual real snow on Sunday morning which threw everyone into a high old state of excitement. I say 'everyone' - not me, though. I am succumbing to 'fear of slipping over in the winter syndrome', which I know shouldn't be hitting me for another 20 years or so but the sight of a bit of frost or slushy ice sends me into a walking pace of three steps an hour and clinging onto any bit of fence I can get hold of so I don't go tipping base over apex and break my hips.

The arrrival of snow heralds a 'first time ever' experience for the hens. 'Look at me!' shouts Mrs Poo, standing on the frozen water bowl. 'I'm walking on water.' I hate to burst her bubble but I don't want Mrs Poo developing Messianic delusions, especially as she already thinks she's the reincarnation of Napoleon's chicken, Josephen. 'Did Napoleon have a chicken?' I asked when she revealed this fascinating nugget of information to me .'Of course,' she said. 'It's a well known fact that Jospehen virtually ran the country for him.'

Anyway, I peel Mrs Poo from the top of the waterbowl and explain about how, when water molecules freeze, they expand and ice is formed. She looks at me like I'm mad. Andy pours warm water into their bowl which immediately takes Mrs Pumphrey's fancy. 'Any chance of chucking in a bag of Earl Grey with that?' she asks. Mrs Miggins is standing next to Mrs Slocombe (or 'call me Betty' as she now prefers to be called), picking snowflakes off her black feathers as they land. 'What ARE you doing?' asks Betty Slocombe, whose patience extends considerably further than the other hens but not this far. 'Dandruff, dear,' says Miggins. 'Hold still.'

'It's not dandruff,' I explain. 'It's snow.' 'Don't listen to her,' says Poo. 'She's just told me some drivel about water going stiff when it expands.' 'Really?' says Betty Slocombe. 'Well, that just reminds me of...'

'Okay,' I interrupt, sensing a double entrendre appearing on the horizon. 'It's just winter setting in, that's all. It gets cold, wet and icy in this season.' 'Aah,' says Mrs Pumphrey, 'now seasons I understand. It's time to go shopping for our winter wardrobes, girls.' And off they go, immediately distracted by the thought of some retail therapy.

They return several hours later, in a taxi, laden with shopping bags. 'We've decided,' says Miggins, after they have done a fashion parade for me to show off their winter fashions (apparently loon pants are very 'in' this year) 'to have a Winter Wonderland Extravaganza.' 'That sounds exciting,' I say. 'It will be,' says Miggins. 'Of course, we have to learn to iceskate first and rig up the lighting and laser system. But you'll love it.' And off she bustles, Mrs Poo and Mrs Slocombe in tow and chattering excitedly. Mrs Pumphrey loiters. 'Are you okay?' I ask. 'Well,' she says, standing close and whispering. 'I didn't want to say anything in front of the others, but I'm a bit worried about the Lycra.' 'The Lycra?' I ask. 'In our skating costumes,' says Pumphrey. 'I mean, it's all right for Mrs Miggins; she's got hips like a racing snake, but me? Well, you know...'

I nod. I know exactly what she means. To some of us Lycra is a cruel mistress. 'I tell you what you need,' I say. 'What's that?' asks Pumphrey. 'Big pants.' 'Big pants?' 'Big pants,' I confirm. 'Pop on a pair of big pants under your skating outfit and you'll be as sleek as the rest.' 'And you're sure this will work?' asks Pumphrey. 'Oh yes,' I say. 'Trust me, I know.' 'How?' asks Mrs Pumphrey.

I stand back. 'Now that, I'm afraid, is something I cannot reveal,' I say. Mrs Pumphrey studies me carefully. A glint of understanding passes between us. She nods sagely. 'I understand,' she says.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Mother said...

There are many words and phrases you don't expect to hear in conversation with your mother and nipple tassles is one of them. During the post-swim hot chocolate/ shortbread break today, Mum suddenly announces in the middle of our conversation about making buns for last week's Children in Need day, that she was appalled to discover you could buy nipple tassles in British Home Stores.

'I was in the middle of pyjamas and there they were, amidst all the Christmas tat,' she says. 'Ah well, there you go. Christmas tat is your key phrase there, Mum,' I say. 'Even so,' she says. 'There was other stuff there, too, of a personal nature, and I thought why do people need this stuff? And what's more to the point, what has happened to British Home Stores that they would want to stock nipple tassles in the first place?' I prepare to block my ears in case Mum decides to elucidate me on the other 'personal items' available, but luckily she doesn't. I suspect they include chocolate willies and Santa gnomes who drop their trousers. We discuss the menopause instead and then go to HobbyCraft to get some 12mm knitting needles.

HobbyCraft is full of everything you'd ever need to make anything craft related you'd ever want. All Mum wants is gi-normous knitting needles because she wants to knit a bodywarmer in as short a time as possible. The needles she finds are the size of broomstick handles so I expect her to be in possession of her new bodywarmer by 7.30 this evening at the latest. During our trip I find out that she also made some flapjacks for Children in Need, had sold her miniature fibre optic Christmas tree at a boot fair and I am not to waste money on a present for her this year because she knows I am on a budget, poor penniless writer that I am. We have this conversation every year. I say 'What would you like for Christmas, Mum?' and she says 'Oh, don't spend your money on me, love,' and I say 'You may as well give me a few ideas because I'm going to get you something and I'd rather get you something that you would like rather than some old tat from, say, British Home Stores.' And then she gives me a few modest ideas like socks, or jam, or a DVD of the original 'Scrooge', you know the proper one with Alistair Sims and I buy her all the above and something else as well.

However, I've already got her present so her protestations are pointless. Rest assured though, her gift this year is NOT from British Home Stores!

On a hen related note, Mrs Miggins has finished moulting and today started laying again. There was a bit of a queue outside the nest box. Miggins was in first after doing considerable nest building (what's the matter, Miggo - shredded paper not good enough any more?? 'No actually,' says Mrs Miggins. 'And it's Mrs Miggo to you.') Mrs Slocombe was in there straight after and came out yelling and kicking up a fuss. 'What's the matter?' I ask. 'There is an EGG in the nest box and I can't possible lay MY EGG whilst the OTHER EGG is there. Kindly remove it NOW!' So I did and she popped in and laid hers.

I wonder if BHS sell nest boxes........

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

The wee small hours

I haven't been sleeping well recently. I don't know why. There aren't any obvious reasons other than hormones which decide to stoke my thermostat at 2 in the morning so I have to fling the duvet off to cool down. I go from blazing inferno to sub-zero in approximately 30 seconds. I'm anticipating a good bout of pneumonia before the year is out. Other than that my mind is clear of worries. But I suddenly wake with the most peculiar thoughts. For example, last night I woke wondering what kind of fabric 'scratch' is. You know, when people say they make something from scratch. Is it like cotton or wool? Or is it synthetic? I worry that's it's like nylon which causes me a lot of static problems. Is it waterproof? Does it require pre-shrinking before you make something from it? Can it be machined or is it best hand sewn? And what colours does it come in? I think it must be quite a high quality material as you often hear people say 'Oh, it didn't come up to scratch,' when comparing other things to it. And it must be durable - scratch proof and scratch resistant are phrases that are bandied about by the people in the know.

And what about gnomes that disappear from gardens and then send postcards to their owners from foreign climes? These gnomes always have names. 'I miss Gerald so much,' cries Mrs Whibble from 23, Bonkerhall Road. 'The place just isn't the same without him.' Meanwhile, Mr Whibble sits in his potting shed bitterly feeding another postcard from Gerald, currently in Hawaii, into the paper shredder and wondering how many more days he'll be there before his wife brings him a cuppa and a Hobnob.

I hope things settle down. I got used to sleeping through the night when I gave up teaching and it's been jolly nice feeling normal after all these years. Perhaps it's just a blip. Perhaps I'm getting excited about Christmas just a tad too early this year. Perhaps I am starting to be haunted by the unleashing of my creative genius?

Perhaps gnomes go abroad to make things from scratch?

Friday, 14 November 2008

Chickens in Need

Today is Children in Need day. And I am reliably informed that there is, in the world of poultry, a parallel day called Chickens in Need.

'Are you sure you really need a 'Chicken in Need' day,' I say, as I am harrassed on my own back door step by four hens clutching sponsor forms. 'You're not really 'in need' are you? Not like battery hens for example, who live on a space the size of a postage stamp and never get to see the light of day in their short, sad lives.' Four pairs of beady eyes look at me. It is Mrs Poo who speaks up first. 'Well, 'she says, 'Mrs Miggins will need a new coat to see her through winter if she keeps moulting at this rate. She's practically bald.' 'She is nowhere near bald,' I say. 'Just thinning in places. ' 'And Mrs Pumphrey will need waterproofs trousers to keep her lovely white feathers clean. She's getting to tall to peck the grass without kneeling down now,' continues Poo. I agree that Mrs Poo has a point. Mrs Pumphrey is becoming quite Amazonian in her proportions. 'And we'll need an indoor dustbath for winter,' interrupts Mrs Slocombe. 'You can't possibly expect us to use the outdoor one in this chilly weather.'

'I still think you do pretty well, ' I say. 'You have a nice home with guest accommodation, a constant supply of good quality food and a maid to do your cleaning.' 'Who's that then?' asks Miggins. She sneezes and a few more feathers go flying into the air. 'Me,' I say. 'Not to mention Andy, your in-house entertainment system.' 'That's true,' concedes Mrs Pumphrey. 'Andy is very entertaining. Especially on his unicycle.' 'I'm not keen on the bedtime stories though,' says Poo. 'There's only so much Doctor Who and HP Lovecraft a hen can stomach. Perhaps you could have a word with him about it?' 'I'll do no such thing,' I say. 'Andy is very stressed at the moment. He doesn't need you lot causing him aggravation, too.' 'Are his feathers falling out?' asks Miggins, who feels she is becoming a bit of an authority on stress- related illnesses since her moult started. 'No, ' I say. 'But the homemade wine is disappearing at a faster rate than usual.'
'That's not a good sign,' says Slocombe. 'So no chance of a bit of bedtime Jeffrey Archer or Enid Bylton, then?' says Poo. 'Absolutely not,' I say. 'And I'll thank you not to mention those two names in the same sentence in future.'

'How about if you sponsor us anyway and we donate the money we raise to this Children in Need thing?' says Mrs Slocombe who, out of all the hens, is the one with the most thoughtful nature.
'Okay,' I say. ' That sounds reasonable. What kind of sponsored event are you planning?' At this point, Mrs Poo becomes almost ecstatic with excitement. 'You know that black and white tom cat that makes an occasional appearance in the garden. The one with the slightly off-centre Hitler moustache?' 'Mr Hilter?' I say. 'That's him,' confirms Poo. 'Well, we've captured him! We're going to tie him to the rotary washing line and spin it around then time him to see how long it takes for him to either fall off or projectile vomit. Person with the nearest guess wins the prize.'

I am shocked. 'You can't do that!' I say. 'That's animal cruelty.' 'He's a cat. We are birds. The cat is the natural enemy of the bird,' says Mrs Poo. 'I don't care,' I say. 'You are to release Mr Hilter IMMEDIATELY.' 'Immediately?' says Poo. 'Immediately,' I say and the four of them trundle off muttering things like 'it was only for charity,'and 'she always spoils our fun.'
I wait until I see Mr Hilter hightailing it from the Eglu and across the garden. I don't expect he'll be back in a hurry, I think. As an afterthought, I call over to the hens. 'What was the prize going to be?' I ask. They all look at me and Mrs Poo marches over like a hen in a strop.

'An egg,' she says. 'Not that you care, you charity thief, you.'

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!

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.'

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

For Heather - news from the Homeland

My darling daughter, who is currently in her final year at university in Norwich, informs me by e-mail today that she reads my blog on a regular basis as it keeps her in touch with what's happening in Kent. Alarming news, I think, because now she thinks that Kent has become over run with chickens filming perfume commercials and reading Proust whilst her mad grandmother runs around electrical ware shops inserting bread sized bits of cardboard in toasters to check for fit.

So, in order to rectify this gross misrepresentation of Kentish goings on, here is today's news from the 'Garden of England'. (Fact or fiction? Who knows? Who cares??)

Ahem...politics - Barack Obama and John McCain continue to hide out in one of the many Fremlin Walk coffee shops until it's all over bar the shouting in the USA. Whilst able to splash out on a skinny latte each, they go halves on a blueberry muffin due to the current dollar/ pound exchange rate and the fact that McCain has many sub-prime interests in the muffin industry and is expecting a run on the bagel market any moment.

...entertainment - Russell Brand seen working behind the counter in the Body Shop. 'Try my latest range of men's toiletries,' he says. 'It's called Brand Gnu and is based on the aromas of the North American buffalo plains.' Buy One Get One Free? 'Not likely', says Brand, 'I need all the cash I can get.'
- Alan Carr says he will never return to the County Town of his birth following his recent outburst against the good and tolerant townsfolk. 'Good!' shout Maidstone residents. 'We don't want you here anyway, you goofy-toothed, squiffy four-eyed Nancy Jim.' and drink - there is still food and drink in Maidstone. I made a chocolate chip and banana cake this morning and am currently weighing up the moral and ethical dilemmas of ordering one of those birds in a bird in another bird all inside a bird confections for Christmas dinner. Andy has several bottles of homemade wine now and the house smells like a brewery. It's good stuff, apparently. I haven't tried it myself; I'm very keen to preserve my eyesight.

....literature - Ginnungagaps, the latest phenomenon in children's fiction, is complete and hot for publication. Its celebrated author is currently working on her next book, Nearly King Jimbo, and has started mass production of Ginnungagaps merchandise, including soft toy Limonquills with risk assessed fangs. Andy is working on a new sausage recipe called 'Ronnie's Best from Gizzard and Gullet.'
- local schools continue to close their libraries in favour of students downloading books and having them read to them in 'virtual learning stations'. Does this mean they will be learning virtually... but not quite? Will students' eyes gradually sink back into their heads through lack of use? Join us in a debate at the bandstand in Brenchley Gardens. Bring your own drugs. Goth and emo-wear optional.

...the weather - is wet. And grey. And foggy in places. But at least it doesn't smell of cabbage like Norfolk (That last bit is from Andy - nothing to do with me, I like Norfolk, especially the pigs in fields.)

...and finally - some moron in a van has parked across the driveway. Local woman goes mental and causes a scene in the street where people point and stare and say 'She's a literary genius, she's allowed to behave like that. It's her artistic temperament, you know.'

And that is the news. For now.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Mrs Pumphrey's news

A note from Mrs Pumphrey:-

'I've lain an egg, I've lain an egg, I've lain an egg, I've lain an egg!!'

And that's all she has to say on the matter.

'So what?' says Miggins. 'I've lain 151 eggs since May. That's why I'm having a rest for the next couple of months.'

'I think I might lay an egg soon,' says Mrs Slocombe, adopting the 'ready for the cock' pose.

'Eggs? No-one said anything about laying eggs,' says Mrs Poo. 'I thought we were here for the Tequila?'

Denise would like Mrs Pumphrey to know that although she is thrilled that she has lain her first egg, please could the next one have a proper shell on it so it is useable? Thanks. Only what with Mrs M off lay now, and Andy wanting his cake, there is a bit of an egg famine in da house at the moment. Thanks. And if Mrs S and Mrs Poo could join in the 'I've lain an egg' excitement soon, that would also be good. Thanks again.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Happy Birthday to Me!

Today it is my birthday. The hens have discovered this - I have no idea how. Perhaps it has something to do with the big, electronic 'BIRTHDAY COUNTDOWN' calendar that had been hanging on the outside of the house since August. Or the fact that every morning, when I step into the garden to feed them I shout 'IT'S MY BIRTHDAY SOON.' And I did mention the day before yesterday when I was cleaning them out that they shouldn't expect me to have to clean them out on SUNDAY which is my BIRTHDAY and perhaps they should consider wielding the shovel themselves for a change.

Anyway, some how they discovered it is my birthday today and it's all very embarrassing when they pitch up on the doorstep bearing gifts.

'So how old are you?' asks Mrs Miggins, going straight for the jugular. I laugh coyly and blush a little. 'Guess,' I say. 'Fifty seven,' says Miggins. 'Guess again,' I suggest through gritted teeth. 'I don't know,' says Miggins. 'I'm a chicken. We only go up to ten.' 'I'm forty three,' I say. 'FORTY THREE?' shrieks Mrs Pumphrey who is given to shrieking a lot since filming her perfume ad. I blame the Russell Brand acting lessons. 'All right, all right,' I say. 'There's no need to shout about it.' 'Even so...forty three???' replies Mrs Pumphrey. 'That's beyond imagination. What's that in chicken years?' 'IT'S STILL FORTY THREE!!' shouts Andy from the kitchen, who gets tetchy about cross-species age comparisons.

'We have brought you gifts,' interrupts Mrs Slocombe who is keen to get back to the Eglu and catch up with last night's Strictly Come Dancing on BBC i-player. 'Yes,' says Mrs Poo. 'Of course, they may not translate well across the chicken/human gift spectrum expectation but it's the thought that counts, isn't it?'

'Yes, it is,' I agree, remembering some of the gifts I have received in past years when I wondered 'what on earth were they thinking?' of the presenter. 'We got most of them from bid-up TV,' says Mrs Poo. 'On account of us not being able to get into town because of all the recent rain.' 'Except the worm and spider cake. We made that ourselves,' says Mrs Miggins proudly. 'Thank you,' I say, without heaving. 'I had to put it in the oven,' continues Mrs Miggins. 'The others are far too young to be in charge of gas.' 'Very wise,' I say, thinking how marvellous it is to have such safety- conscious hens. 'But you could get me some new oven gloves for Christmas if you like,' says Miggins. 'My old ones are getting thin in places. I singed a wing.'

I open the gifts. They include sixteen wash balls, a two carat gold bracelet inset with genuine fake diamantes, a James Bond all-action hero alarm clock with totally non-misogynistic image of a semi-naked woman sprayed in blue ink on the front, a thermal vest and a multi-functional '87 different permutations' ladder.

'Thank you,' I say. Not only do we have safety- conscious hens, we have original- thought hens. I am so proud. 'We tried to get the alarm clock with Hong Kong Phooey on it,' says Mrs Pumphrey, 'only Mrs Slocombe got her dialling feather stuck in the key pad.' 'That's her excuse,' says Mrs Poo. 'I think she did it deliberately because she's got a crush on Daniel Craig.' 'Do not,' retorts Mrs Slocombe. 'Do too,' says Mrs Poo. 'I always thought Roger Moore was the definitive Bond,' says Mrs Miggins. 'Anyway, we'll leave you to your birthday now.'

'Thank you for the presents,' I call as they trip off back down the garden. I carry the gifts inside with the exception of the multi-functional ladder which is too big and too multi-functional for me to get my head around at the moment. Especially a head that contains a forty-three year old brain.

'Worm and spider cake?' I ask Andy. 'If I must,' he says.