a thousand holly wreaths

This morning I planned a morning of rosy-cheeked, family fun. So we loaded our two children and the powered wheelchair, an additional borrowed child, Morris-dog The Dachshund and my friend who is visiting for the weekend to help with the children in to two cars. And we drove the three miles down the hill to Ma’s smallholding for a Nice Run Round. We also had a cage with four superannuated chickens that were going to retire to there.

We were greeted by Ma’s two young sheepdogs, extremely excited to see us all. There was barking and a football and Joyful Shennanigins.

Then my friend and OH got the chicken cage out of the car and started to carry it down to the hen house. A combination of dogs knocked the top off the chicken cage. Three of the hens exploded out of it. Two of them ran out the gate and turned left, chased by a barking dachshund. One of them flew up on to the top of one of the commercial greenhouses and leaped down in to the farm next door.

The children started yelling at the dogs. I started yelling at the children. The children and OH pelted out of the gate and up the lane after the hens. OH was wearing his knitted hat with the Viking plaits that bounce as he runs. My friend threw herself on the chicken cage to prevent egress of the cockerel, who was pretty pissed off by this point.

The Pursuit Party returned with one hen clutched under OH’s arm and Morris clutched in the Child’s. We finished unloading Smaller Child and the wheelchair and took the two birds down to the hen house. In the pen of the hen-house were the seven more or less feral guinea-fowl, partaking of a little nourishment as is their habit at that time of day. We put the chickens in with them and they immediately attacked them. The chickens lodged themselves right in the corner of the pen behind an old feeder to get away. This made it quite hard to get hold of them again.

We shut the pop-hole to the hen house with the guinea-fowl outside and went to put the chickens inside. First we had to remove the corpse of a large rat that was lying on top of the straw. OH then stapled the pen-roof netting that was sagging and we shut the guinea-fowl inside. My friend had found the hen that had jumped the greenhouse by this time and we went to try and help her catch it.

This did not happen.

The Postman arrived and we asked him to keep an eye out for the missing hen as he went on up the lane. He asked what colour it was and my friend produced a handful of feathers from a pocket … “These were what I took out of the dog’s mouth.”

The Postman left.

By this time, Larger Child had been told off so many times for shouting, they were sobbing. OH took the children to get groceries and my friend and I stayed to walk the dachshund around Ma’s field to see what his recall was like with no children around.

His recall is very, very bad.

Luckily, Ma’s sheep are extremely tame and very robust and have FUCKING LARGE HORNS. I will not be letting the dog off the lead near sheep ever, ever again. Although he’s probably terrified of them now.

We went to say goodbye to Ma. Ma was in her shed, making holly wreaths. Last December she made a thousand. A thousand holly wreaths. A. Thousand. Holly. Wreaths. Ma is eighty-one and she does not enjoy December. She makes sure that no-one else enjoys it either and this is the reason why I didn’t come home for the four weeks before Christmas for twenty years.

Ma said she didn’t want the guinea-fowl shut in, because they tell her when there is anyone or anything about, so my friend and I went and let the guinea-fowl out of the pen.

And then we went home.

This Christmas Fun Infovert has been brought to you by the family of A. L. Lester. Please send us your good wishes for the holiday season, as we send you ours. Or gin. You could send gin.

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