The end of term was nigh and already the summer was looking busy. After lengthy and at times, emotional discussions with the children, I had decided to make a fresh start in a new house, so I would be buying and selling a house (I hoped) over the break. I was looking forward to seeing the children of course and I was hopeful that the weather would be kind, so that I could enjoy some long, country walks with the dog, maybe the occasional bike-ride and perhaps do a bit more horse-riding, as (soon-to-be-ex) hubby had given me some riding gear for my last birthday with him, so that I could revive an old hobby.
First day of the summer holiday and I was greeted by a waft of tropical heat when I opened the back door, armed with coffee, toast made with bread from my newly-borrowed bread-maker and my iPad, gently serenading me with Rhiannon Giddens’ elegant, old-timey vibe. Rusty was at my heels and to my surprise, I heard the gruff sounds of dogs barking. My new neighbour (as of the day before) had dogs, I guess. Rusty responded so for the sake of a peaceful breakfast, I returned him inside.
Despite my disdain for my newly-acquired house, it boasted a pretty, secluded garden, perfect for taking breakfast al fresco, whilst still in my pyjamas. Which I was doing, when I decided to slide along the bolt on the hen-house, to release Dorothea and Lysistrata into the garden, to frolic and peck and generally partake of chicken-like activities, seeing as their enemy, The Dog, was inside. The two chickens are very different; whereas Dorothea is big and white, Lysistrata is small and brown. And whereas Dorothea ambles around (unless she’s launching a violent attack on potential suitors), Lysistrata runs around like – well, a headless chicken, only she’s got a head. She has an endearing habit of burying herself in soil, leaving chicken-shaped and chicken-sized dents all over the flower beds. Dorothea watched in fascination for a minute, on this particular day, until I plopped her next to her house-mate and she, too, discovered the joys of bathing in soil.
Breakfast over, I went back inside, leaving them flapping about in the flower bed, the air filling with feathers and soil.
I looked out a few minutes later and party-time in the flower bed was over. Dorothea was pecking around on the grass and Lysistrata was . . . nowhere.
I shot outside and scoured the garden for a small, brown hen but my scouring was in vain. I looked at potential escape routes but the garden was like Fort Knox. I didn’t see how it was possible, but hearing next-door’s dogs barking, I wondered if she was next-door. I ran down the driveway, hopped into their garden and called out her name:
. . . several times.
Why did I call her name?
Did she know her name?
Do chickens even have ears?
Would she have responded anyway?
I spotted her, under a bush, starting to bury herself. Phew. Another minute and she would have been completely camouflaged. I bundled her into my arms and as I turned to head home, I just caught sight of a curtain closing as the man next-door had clearly been watching me. In his garden. In my PJs. Calling out the name of a Greek farce. There was nothing for it . . . I’d have to change her name to avoid this kind of embarrassing situation in the future. I’d call her Rocky. After that chicken in Chicken Run who was always escaping.
I decided that she must have squeezed her way through the bars of a gate, so I blocked off the gate and got on with my day.
Ah . . . summer. Walked the dog, had a coffee in the café on the seafront, wandered home, let the chickens out again in the fortified garden and got ready to go out. I was going out Toby-hunting of course, with a dedicated single friend. The difficulty with finding yourself single again, is finding people who have the same agenda as you, with which to have a night out. Not that my agenda was anything nefarious, but people in relationships, generally, don’t want to drink too much, stay out late or flirt. There are exceptions, amongst my friends, as many of them accompanied me to The Folky Pub in those early Toby-hunting days but tonight I was partying with a dedicated single friend.
I’d bought myself a whole range of cropped tops to wear whilst Toby-hunting but tonight I decided to wear the original cropped top I’d been wearing on the fateful evening of back dimples and red hair. While I got ready, I recalled how his hand had gently brushed against my lower back and just the thought of it made my hair stand on end (in a good way). Then I noticed the time and decided to put the chicks to bed and leave, if I were to catch the next bus.
It was evening but not yet dark, being summer and I felt bad for putting the hens to bed early but the summer stretched ahead of us, so I put Dorothea in first, as she was always more conspicuous, then scanned the garden for Rocky.
She really wasn’t anywhere.
I went next-door (at least I was dressed this time, even if my top was cropped) . . . nothing.
I walked up and down the road, looking in gardens – I even asked a group of teenagers if they’d seen a chicken walk past – nothing (and they could barely stifle their giggles. I’m probably still known as ‘the mad chicken lady’ in those parts).
I wasn’t hopeful of seeing my little, funny, brown hen again but I got in the car and drove round, very slowly, hoping to spot her in a front garden and fortune smiled on me. Well, her, actually, because she would have been Mr Fox’s supper if I hadn’t found her. And I realised how she escaped because there she was, FLYING over a garden fence. Once again, I found myself in someone else’s garden, looking like I was stealing a chicken.
I drove to my night out, after finally putting my little runaway (flyaway?) to bed, because I was late, thanks to her, so didn’t drink, didn’t find Toby and was in bed by midnight.
I received a message from Wimbledon Man just as I was going to bed, wondering if I’d like to meet up. His communication was tardy, I felt and anyway, I had Toby to consider, which I knew he wouldn’t understand, so I told him I had another chicken.
And that was that.