We plan a relaxing Boxing Day walk.
My sister, RonnieB, is anxious to be back by mid-day, as she is keen that my nephew, DonnieB, gets fed on time. I am also keen to be fed on time. I do not know why babies always take priority. It is typical selfishness from the young.
I get up early, at 4.30am, in order to start negotiations with my mother, my father, my mother in law, my father in law, my sister, my brother in law, my nephew and the LTLP where we are going and how we are going to get there. By 10.30am this aspect is sorted out. We will drive to Sandringham, where the Queen lives, and walk around there.
We are in our allocated cars by 10.45. At this point, my father tries to renegotiate, but I am having none of it. We are in a hurry.
There is a knock on the windscreen.
It is the Village Doctor. I give him a complicated ‘it is really nice to see you, and Happy Christmas, and hope you have a good Boxing Day, but we are in a bit of a hurry, being six and a quarter hours into our relaxing walk and not quite having started it yet’ wave.
“I’ve just had the neighbours round,” he replies. “I think one of your chickens is in their front drive.”
I am a bit taken aback by this. Short Tony and I have been letting the chickens free-range over Christmas, as a treat. Their little faces light up when we go to open the gate to let them into the back gardens.
“Are you sure it’s one of ours?” I ask doubtfully. “They do not go near the road, as they are quite sensible.”
“I think it is.”
I look round at the crowd of impatient prospective walkers in the car, and in the car behind.
“I could try to catch it for you if you want, and bring it back?” he says.
It is an honorable offer, but would be beyond the call of duty. I sigh. “Won’t be a second,” I tell the people in the car. I then give the people in the second car a complicated ‘yes I know we are in a hurry, and I won’t be long, but I just have to go to fetch a chicken from up the road’ wave.
We reach the scene of the reported chicken-sighting. The Village Doctor lives sort of over the road and round the corner, and it is quite a way for a chicken to saunter. But there, in his neighbour’s front drive, is a chicken.
“It’s one of ours,” I confirm.
We study the chicken for a bit. My chickens are quite good-natured, but being picked up causes them alarm. It is quite happy pecking around near us, but any approach causes it to scurry away at speed.
The key to catching chickens is that you need to back them into a corner. Once you have backed them into a corner, they have nowhere to go and you can make a proper grab for them. Often it is useful to have a net, or a large flat corner-backing device, to achieve this. We have neither of these things, nor a corner. We circle round the bird, making occasional ineffectual lunges.
The chicken makes a break for the road. Travelling hearse-slowly from the direction of the Village is a Nissan Micra, manned by two pensioners. They lurch to a halt as a chicken flees across their path pursued by a sprinting General Practitioner.
The chicken abruptly spins 180 degrees, and dives underneath the car. I catch up, huffing and puffing. The pensioners look warily around them as we position ourselves on either side of the car, crouching purposefully on the balls of our feet, ready to pounce. I give them a complicated ‘I’m very sorry to delay you, but one of my chickens is underneath your car, which is surprising as they are generally quite sensible, but don’t worry – we are just about to catch it and take it back home’ wave.
There is a short stand-off. Me, Village Doctor, pensioners, chicken.
The chicken pokes out its head from underneath the front bumper. “Aha!” I cry, making a grab. It withdraws quickly and shoots out from the rear of the car, hastening down the middle of the road back towards the Cottage.
We set off after it and, now it is going in the right direction, a lifetime of watching ‘One Man and His Dog’ saves the day. The chicken is expertly shepherded into Short Tony’s garden, via a brief detour around Wallace’s outside lights.
“Thank you,” I say to the Village Doctor.
I rejoin the car-load of relatives. We go for a relaxing Boxing Day walk.