There is a commotion.

Glancing through the window of my private secret garden shed office lair I can see some activity at the front door. I hasten to investigate. Mrs Short Tony is there, with the LTLP.

The LTLP turns and looks at me with a face like thunder on its period.

“She’s brought round some books for you from the library.”

As soon as I see the titles, I step back guiltily. I had been meaning to mention something about it, but recently all my energies have been diverted elsewhere into concentrating on not mentioning it.

“So this is what you’ve been getting the Builder to do.” She brandishes the books one by one. “‘Practical Chicken-Keeping’, ‘Choosing and Keeping Chickens’. ‘Hen and the Art of Chicken Maintenance.’

“I had been meaning to mention…”

“This is another one of your plans, isn’t it?” she demands. She doesn’t actually use the phrase ‘hare-brained scheme’, but I can see her contemplating it tattooed on my face.

“I thought it would be really nice for little Servalan to have some chickens…”

She explodes, like a tin of out-of-date exasperation that has been left in the sun. “Let’s get this straight. I am NOT spending my weekends cleaning out chickens. I am NOT spending my weekends feeding them, or watering them, or doing whatever it is you need to do with chickens. HAVE YOU GOT THAT?”

I gaze weakly at Mrs Short Tony for some support. But I gaze in vain. By rights she should be looking sheepish or guilty for her role in creating this unpleasant scene. But, as with all women, all compassion is set aside under the instinct to show solidarity with another female. If men had that sort of pack mentality then we would have ruled the world for thousands of years.

The LTLP slams the books down on the kitchen table. I retreat back in to the shed.