Anyway, the excitement was great when Tango Pete and Mrs Pumphrey announced their engagement. There was much back slapping and rib nudging and eye winking and that was just Merrily and Mrs P.
'So when is the wedding?' said Merrily, as Mrs Pumphrey showed off her engagement ring.
'I'm an old fashioned girl,' said Mrs P. 'So we're getting married today!'
'Today?' said Merrily. 'But there is so much planning to do for a wedding. You need to organise a dress, a cake, bridesmaids, a venue, invitations, bridesmaids, buffet or sit-down, shoes, bridesmaids, hymns, a gift list, a honeymoon, bridesmaids...and...'
'Bridesmaids?' hazarded Mrs Pumphrey.
'Well, quite,' said Merrily, 'but only if you are sure.'
Mrs Pumphrey smiled. 'You can be my bridesmaid, Merrily, but there will be NO hen-do, okay? We won't have time for a start.'
Merrily looked at the same time elated and crestfallen. It is a look that geese carry off especially well. Something to do with them having no discernible eyebrows. 'But don't you want your friends Mrs Miggins, Mrs Slocombe, Mrs Bennett and Mrs Poo to be bridesmaids?' she said. Then, 'and it would be nice to have a hen-do.'
'I have already called ahead to Much Malarkey Manor to tell them the good news,' said Mrs Pumphrey, 'and the girls are very excited and very keen to put together a wedding reception for Christmas Eve. And if you must organise a hen-do then, okay, go ahead. But it will have to be in exactly one hour's time and in the form of elevenses at a nice little bistro cafe.'
'But why the rush?' said Merrily, looking very cheerful now and wondering if she could get away with wearing orange. 'You're not...you know...thingy, are you?' And she stared pointedly at Mrs Pumphrey's tummy.
'About to lay an egg?' said Mrs Pumphrey. 'Good Lord, no. My egg popping days are long past. It's just that, well, Tango Pete and I have been good friends for so long there doesn't seem any point in waiting. Plus Santa has pulled a few magic strings and has managed to secure a Very Special Person to perform our wedding ceremony. And this Very Special Person can only marry us today.'
Merrily was intrigued. 'Who is this Very Special Person?' she said.
Mrs Pumphrey tapped the side of her beak. 'You'll find out in a couple of hours,' she said.
'Okay,' said Merrily. 'Just one other thing - can I wear my tangerine hot pants?'
'Totally inappropriate and totally no,' said Mrs Pumphrey.
Two hours later, and Santa's sleigh landed in no less a place than the grounds of Buckingham Palace itself.
'Her Maj the Queen is going to perform your wedding ceremony?' said Merrily, staring in awe at the massive building before them, and also a little greedily at the lush green lawns upon which the sleigh now stood.
'Yes!' said Mrs Pumphrey.
'But she's the Queen!' said Merrily.
'And thus able to do anything she jolly well likes,' said Mrs P. 'And apparently she owes Santa a favour. Something to do with a corgi doo-doo in St James' Park and an altercation with a dog warden. Anyway, Her Maj is waiting, so let's go-go!'
As the wedding party made its way up the steps to the Garden Room of the Palace, they heard strange noises emanating from within.
'What's going on? said Tango Pete, who was wearing a kilt of the Balmoral tweed in honour of their auspicious hostess.
Harold Angel, in the role of best quail, shrugged his shoulders. 'Sounds like something is kicking off,' he said.
Suddenly, the Garden Room doors banged open and a footman came flying out, landing with a thump on the terrace. A familiarly regal voice called, 'Watch out, Steve! They can break your arm with a single beat of their wings, you know!'
'Good grief!' said Tango Pete, helping Steve the Footman to his feet. 'Are you all right? What's going on?'
Steve the Footman brushed himself down and adjusted his livery. 'Thank you, Sir,' he said, giving a slight bow. 'A mere swan attack, Sir. Nothing that cannot be handled with aplomb and a stick. I have called the Swan Upper. A sterling chap by the name of Mr M.C Tales. He has the aplomb. I have the stick.'
(Mr M.C Tales will recognise himself in this cameo role of the story. Or at least, his good lady wife will!)
'We're here for a wedding,' said Tango Pete.
'And a wedding you shall have, Sir,' said Steve the Footman. 'Her Majesty is expecting you, and is installed in the Throne Room. Along with seven swans.'
'Seven swans?' said Mrs Pumphrey, who was a bit nervous around anything bigger and whiter than her, things like swans, and ghosts and enormous pavlovas.
'A minor inconvenience, madam,' said Steve. 'They do it every year. For all their beauty, swans are intrinsically stupid birds, and coupled with their tendencies towards violence, they can be rather boorish.'
'Why are they here?' said Tango Pete, as Steve the Footman beckoned them forward towards the corridor that led to the Throne Room.
'It's their annual protest against the Monarchy eating swans,' explained Steve the Footman. 'They think that just because the monarch is the only person in the kingdom allowed to eat swan, that she does eat swan, on Christmas Day, instead of turkey. Or goose. Begging your pardon, madam,' he said, bowing towards Merrily.
'Pardon granted,' said Merrily, who was feeling some empathy towards the swans.
'And every year they arrive and protest,' said Steve the Footman. 'Generally there is a lot of noise involved, and we order the carpet cleaners in to give the Persians a once over, but Her Majesty deals with them with very little other fuss.' And Steve opened the Throne Room door to reveal Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second of Great Britain and the Commonwealth holding seven swans at bay in a corner with a small velvet chair and a pike. (No, not the fish variety - that would just be ridiculous!)
Several corgis were joining in the fun by barking and what with the swans hissing, it was a bit loud.
'Do come in,' said Her Maj, casting one eye back and smiling at her guests, yet keeping one eye on the cornered swans. 'As soon as my Swan Upper arrives, we shall proceed with your marriage. Have you decided yet if you are going to love, honour and obey, or love, honour and cherish?'
'Cherish!' said Mrs P and Tango Pete in unison, which luckily bode well for their future happiness.
'Marvellous!' said the Queen. 'I said the same to my Philly. I said, 'Philly, I am the Queen. I am making no promises to obey.'
At that moment, Mr M.C Tales, Swan Upper, arrived. Bowing to Her Majesty, he said not a word, but simply marched over to the swans, opened the bag that was flung across his shoulder, and began to lay a trail of plums from the corner of the room, and out through the door. Steve the Footman followed, giving the occasional swan an occasional poke with his stick, and the swans went silently and obediently, all hissing and protest ceased. And at the entrance to the Garden Room terrace, Santa guided the swans to the sleigh because he thought they might come in handy in a few days' time.
And so Mrs Pumphrey married Tango Pete in a quiet yet regal ceremony in the most auspicious of circumstance. Her Majesty cracked open bottles of her finest champagne and served canapés that she had made herself that very morning. 'Philly made the cheese straws,' she said, 'but I did all the rest.'
And before the happy couple set off in Santa's sleigh towards the direction of King Wenceslas's castle, Her Maj insisted that they should come to Balmoral for the New Year celebrations as part of their honeymoon.
'Bring as many guests as you like,' she said.
'Thank you, Your Majesty,' said Mrs Pumphrey, curtsying deeply. And as she stepped into the gardens of Buckingham Palace, a newly married hen, the sun glistened on the shiny gold ring, and she was very happy indeed.