Thursday, 28 July 2011


'Interlopers!' yells Mrs Slocombe.
'Attackers!' shrieks Mrs Pumphrey.
'Magpies,' says I.

This morning, two magpies arrived in the back garden. I declared them to be youngsters as they had a look of teenage arrogance about them. You know, the kind of surly glance you get when you are driving down a busy street and a group of youngsters just stroll across the road in front of your car without so much as a tip and a wink to the Green Cross Code or Tufty the Squirrel, God bless his fat 'n' fluffy tail. The kind of look that says, 'Who the effin' eff d' yoo fink you are, driving a car down a road that I want to cross over NOW.' The kind of look that makes you want to wind down your window and yell, 'GET OUT OF THE ROAD, YOU MORONS,' but you don't because a) you are an adult and have to be grown-up about such stupidity and b) you don't want to get your headlights kicked in.

Anyway, these two jack-the-lad-pies pitched up this morning and hopped about on the fence swinging their tails with attitude and picking bugs out of the woodwork. Mrs P and Mrs S immediately stood stock-still by the herb garden and fixed them with their beady eyes.

'They were on our turf,' says Mrs Slocombe.
'Well, they would be if we hadn't scratched it all up,' says Mrs Pumphrey.
'Quite,' says I.

And then these two magpies hopped from the fence onto the bird table - well, one hopped, the other hopped on and fell off - and then they hopped into the living willow arch (which is HUGE now - well impressed with the willow arch, we are), and then they hopped onto the little fence that surrounds the herb garden, thus putting them on a beady eye-level with the hens.

Well! What happened next I can only describe as 'hen-rage.'
'We were henraged,' says Mrs Pumphrey.
'And very hengry, too,' says Mrs Slocombe.
'And apopl-hentic?' I suggest.
'Too tenuous,' says Mrs P.

Generally, the Misses Pumphrey and Slocombe will tolerate intrusion of birds of a size, say, smaller than a grapefruit, or 'pamplemousse' as they say most amusingly en France. They will happily allow sparrows and their ilk to dust bath and hop about in a sparrowy way without giving them a second glance. And they will also put up with the wood pigeons that come into the garden to chance their wing at nicking a few pellets of chicken food. (I, however, do not tolerate the wood pigeons, but then I have to pay for the chicken food. I often rush headlong into the back garden flapping a tea-towel in order to discourage wood pigeon thievery, which I suspect only serves to make them laugh at my mis-comprehension of the whole 'we've-got-wings-and-you-haven't' thing.)

But this morning, there was no such toleration of the magpies. Every time one landed on the ground, either Mrs Pumphrey or Mrs Slocombe (or sometimes both) RUSHED at them like loons, feathers poofed out and up and eyes blazing, beaks ready for action. This subtle display of body language suggested our girls were not happy about the magpies.

'No, we were not,' says Mrs Pumphrey.
'But there were two of them,' says I. 'And you know the saying, 'One for sorrow, two for joy...'
'Oh, that's all very well in human terms,' says Mrs Slocombe. 'Totally different in chicken parlance, though.'
'You do surprise me,' says I.
'Do you want to hear the chicken magpie rhyme?' says Mrs S.
'Do I have a choice?' I say.
'No,' says Mrs S.
'And be aware it may not rhyme very well, either,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'On account of some of the language nuances being lost in translation.'
'Okay,' I say. 'Carry on.'

Mrs Slocombe clears her throat.

'One for red mite, two for lice
Three for scaly leg, four for mice,
Five for dangle comb, six for moult
Seven for a fly strike and a case of bananas...'

'What?' says I.
'I did warn you,' says Mrs Pumphrey.

'Eight for sour crop and nine for weevils,
Ten for a hen-house cursed with evil,' finishes Mrs Slocombe.
'Blimey,' I say, 'that's a bit heavy, isn't it?'
'Yes,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'And because there were 'two for lice' this morning, I've now got to douse Mrs Slocombe with a good shake of 'Mrs Malarkey's Miracle Lotion for the Effective Treatment of Lice, Louses, Looses and Lizards.'
'Not going to do yourself at the same time?' I say.
'Certainly not!' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'I am way too sophisticated to attract parasites of any kind.'
'Are you implying that Mrs Slocombe is common?' I say.

Mrs Pumphrey fixes me with her usual 'stupid woman' stare. 'I don't think I have to imply at all,' she says.

(P.S I have, after much huffing 'n' puffing, located MMM followers again (something to do with downloading GoogleChrome and then thinking I had and then thinking I hadn't and then getting cross and then Andy saying, 'Look! There it is! You did it!' and me thinking, 'Cor, p'raps I'm not such a techno-twit after all', and as such it is my delight to discover and welcome new visitor, Diana! Of course, a new visitor now means we shall have to apply for planning permission to extend at the Manor. I'm thinking either a) a two bedroom, one bathroom and a snug extension over the library and armoury wing b) a purpose built studio cottage next to Cluckinghen Palace or c) pitching the tent in the front garden. I think a shake of the piggy bank may determine the answer...)

1 comment:

doodles n daydreams said...

Hi Denise. Thanks for your welcome - I have to say I love your posts, they brighen my day. I am also reading 'Poulet nous', very entertaining, I dared to laugh out loud while my good kiwi bloke was watching a rugby game on telly :)
- and I am happy to stay in a tent in the front garden as long as it is summer while you await planning permission.