And as the sun came up, the garden lightened and I thought, 'Must go and let Pumphrey and Slocombe out of the pod.' The pod, if you remember, has been moved into the cosiness of the greenhouse in order to give the hens extra warmth and shelter from the looming wintery nights.
And I glanced into the garden and saw Mrs Slocombe mooching down the garden from the direction of the willow arch which is now devoid of leaves and awaiting pruning. (Andy is keen to get hold of some willow prunings - he is going to make a Christmas wreath for the front door by doing a spot of artisan-type willow weaving.)
And I thought,'Someone's already let the hens out. That saves me a job.'
But I couldn't see Mrs Pumphrey. And she usually sticks out like a bright white sticky out thing in the morning gloom, what with her being hugely voluminous and sparkling white of featherage.
And do you know why I couldn't see Mrs Pumphrey? Because she was still inside the pod that was inside the greenhouse with both doors closed.
MRS SLOCOMBE HAD SPENT THE NIGHT AL FRESCO!!
'Yes!' shouts Mrs Slocombe from the mini-hen spa I've set up in the bathroom because I feel guilty for being a bad chicken-keeper and putting her at risk of darkness/ coldness/ marauding cats/ marauding foxes/ marauding burglars. 'I could have been murdered in my feathers!'
'But you weren't,' I say, serving her a glass of champagne and bowl of Twiglets.
'But I could have been,' says Slocombe. 'I was in the DARK all NIGHT on MY OWN!'
'What I want to know,' I say, ' is why you weren't in bed when I came to close the pod and shut the greenhouse?'
'What I want to know is,' says Mrs Slocombe, 'is why you didn't waggle your arm about in the pod like you usually do when you can't see me, so you can check I am in bed by the power of touch.'
This is true. Mrs S is a dark grey hen and I have trouble seeing her if I don't shut the pair of them away until after dark because I am late home from work. I usually have a poke around to make sure they are both safe. I didn't last night. I have no idea why not.
I am a bad henkeeper.
'Yes you are,' says Mrs Slocombe. 'Add more hot water to the Jacuzzi, if you please. And peel me a Ferrero Rocher.'
'So where did you spend the night?' I say. 'Under the beehive? In your tent? Behind the eucalyptus tree stump?'
Mrs Slocombe glares at me, huffily. 'Are you mad??' she says. 'I got a taxi and went to the Travel Lodge in town. They're sending you the bill. I made copious use of room service. And I pinched a bathrobe.'
I sigh. I suppose a hefty hotel bill is small price to pay for a unscathed alfresco hen.