Why is it that Christmas always seems to become an endurance test? Midnight mass, feeding the 5,000, gifts, chickens, work parties, the inevitable bout of sniffles.
First prize to those eagled eyed people who picked out the word chicken from that list, it wasn’t a typo, Christmas this year really did involve Operation Cluck. It came about during the day I last reported on here, when me and the senior Mrs B spent a Saturday idly shopping and lunching in those halcyon days before Christmas preparations reach fever pitch. A throwaway comment about Adrian liking chickens (in an entirely appropriate way, of course) and we were soon hatching (arf, arf) a plan to surprise him with a brood of his very own.
A house was sourced from eBay and collected by some friends of the family to stash away from prying eyes. Chickens were liberated from a battery farm via Jamie at the farm and, most importantly, a scheme to sneak said chucks into the garden.
Boxing Day, a quick call to say the coast was clear, and I loaded up the car with all our necessaries, two dogs and three chickens.
Let us speak no further of the journey, suffice to say everyone arrived at chateau Batsford alive. Just.
Thinking the worst was over, I happily tucked into a much needed cuppa and released the chickens into the garden to roam. Unfortunately, there’s no fence along the back of the garden. There is however an extremely spiky hedgerow which I had to leap through on a regular basis to chase chickens back into the garden, a task not made easier by Harry standing guard in the house and scaring the living bejeesus out of the chickens every time they came into view. I hadn’t even unpacked the chicken house and I was already trying to decide who I wanted to strangle more – hounds or chickens.
And while we’re on the subject of chicken houses, don’t buy flat packed houses from the ‘bay and expect either of the following:
1. Intelligent instructions
2. Well fitting panels
With darkness threatening, Jan and I got our backsides in gear and started putting the house together. Well, we tried, but Jan isn’t a natural DIYer and I was about as frazzled as I’ve ever been, so we called in help. With an hour or so, we had the house together (and only a small bag of screws left over) and now there was nothing between us and a much needed lie down in a darkened room except getting 3 chickens into their new home.
I’ll summarise this part – I jumped through more hedges, Harry barked lots, the neighbour came round and proved a dab hand at grabbing chickens by their tails, and I went one on one with the smallest, but most spirited of the birds who decided that despite being called by Jan, prodded by me and lunged at by the neighbour, she was going to duck and dive her way round the garden until there was muttered threats of stuffing and roasting. It worked out in the end though, and I hear that Vera, Mabel and Daisy are now settled into their new home.
After recovering from the adventures in poultry, we had a relatively relaxed New Year. Four friends came over and we had an Italian feast, set off some of those beautiful paper lanterns at midnight, drank lots of cocktails and watched some comedy.
More wonderful still was New Year’s Day when we did …. Nothing. I mean nothing on a biblical level too. We stayed in our jammies all day, made the fire roar and tucked into bowls of roast potatoes and gravy while watching films. For dinner we treated ourselves to cheese on toast and champagne, which for some strange reason felt like the most decadent dinner in the world.
I have to admit, I still feel as if I’m recovering from the whole ordeal of the festive season - and for Christmas 2009 we are determined to do things very, very differently - but now that the dust has settled somewhat, I can take my lessons and look to the rest of this year with hope.
We wish you all peace and happiness this year, in whatever form that takes.