Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Chapter Three - Much Malarkey Madness

'What in the name of all that is eggy, is that?' said Mrs Miggins.

The bald winged eagle, who turned out to be a human creature by the name of Denise, had left Mrs Miggins and Mrs Slocombe to settle into what she called 'the highly desirous chicken accommodation.'
'That remains to be seen,' said Mrs Miggins, who had a list in her Filofax entitled 'Essential Qualities of Desirous Accommodation' which included features such as hot tub, garden swing, ballroom and views across rolling countryside.
'Well,I'll leave you to settle in,' said Denise. 'And to meet Mrs Slocombe. She's the present incumbent. She's a bit of an acquired taste, characterwise, but she means well and I'm sure you'll all get on famously.' And then she'd cast them a fond gaze and disappeared through the back door of Much Malarkey Manor.

'I am guessing that that is Mrs Slocombe,' said Mrs Pumphrey. She fished her opera glasses from her handbag in order to get a better look. They'd kept their distance thus far, unsure of the reception they would receive from this odd, speckedly chicken, preferring to view the scene from afar for any potentially life-threatening situations.
'What's she doing?' asked Mrs Miggins.
Mrs Pumphrey took back the opera glasses. 'I think,' she said, 'that she is dancing.'
'Well, that's what it looks like to me,' said Pumphrey. 'Either that or she's having some kind of fit to Riverdance music.'
'Do you think it's safe to approach?' said Miggins.

Her question was answered when Mrs Slocombe ceased suddenly in her prancings and waved a wing.

'Yoo-hoo!' she called. 'Hello! Welcome to Cluckinghen Palace,' and she came charging towards them with a distinctly wild look in her one good eye, for the other was covered in a pirate patch.

'Hold your ground, Gloria,' hissed Miggins. 'Remember, there are two of us and one of her. We need to establish a pecking order.'
'Ooh, I don't believe in a pecking order,' said Mrs Pumphrey, who couldn't help but hold her ground because she'd got her knitting caught in the catch of the Palace gates.
'You're not a Liberal Democrate, are you?' said Miggins. 'Only there's no sitting on the fence when you're a chicken.'
'Oh, yes. I know,' said Pumphrey. 'I tried sitting on a fence once and fell off.'
'It's because we are ovoid in shape,' said Miggins. 'Difficult to balance effectively. It's the rugby effect.'
'What's rugby?' asked Mrs Pumphrey, bracing herself for the delivery of what she anticipated to be a very poor and very old joke.
'It's a game played by men with odd shaped balls,' said Miggins, who felt she couldn't disappoint.

They waited for the tumbleweed to cease tumbling and the coyotes to cease howling.

Mrs Pumphrey coughed.'I don't really do politics,' she said. 'I prefer to think of myself as a fair-minded utilitarian who values every living creaure as equal in this world.
'So you don't mind that I'm already in charge, then?' said Miggins.
'Absolutely not,' said Pumphrey.
'Good,' said Miggins, because in this potential pecking order quandary, there really wasn't another option given the candidates laid before her.

Mrs Slocombe arrived before them, puffing and blowing, her wings resting on her knees, which had the effect of making her bells jangle.
'Nice bells,' said Mrs Pumphrey.
'Thanks,' said Mrs Slocombe. 'They're to help bring up the worms. I'm Betty Slocombe, by the way. Nice to meet you.'
'Gloria Pumphrey,' said Mrs Pumphrey, extending the wing of friendship. 'And this is Laetitia Miggins.'
'Mrs Miggins,' said Mrs Miggins, firmly.
'Can I call you Glo and Tish?' asked Mrs Slocombe.
'Yes,' said Mrs Pumphrey.
'No,' said Mrs Miggins.
'Right,' said Mrs Slocombe.

There was a bit of a silence, as always happens in these awkward social situations.
'So,' said Mrs Pumphrey. 'Tell us about the bells.'

Mrs Slocombe did a twirl. 'They go with this costume,' she said, as long ribbons lashed around her and her straw hat, decorated with ears of corn and dried flowers, flew off at speed and landed in a buddleia.
'It's a very unusual costume,' said Mrs Pumphrey, who was very interested in dress of all sorts, having done the 'Theatre Costumes Through the Ages' module whilst studying for her degree.
'It's a Maurice Dancing costume,' said Slocombe.
'Don't you mean 'Morris'?' said Mrs Miggins, who was a stickler for proper spelling.
'No,' said Mrs Slocombe. 'I mean, 'Maurice'. It's French.'
'As in 'Chevalier?' said Pumphrey.
'As in 'Great-Uncle,' said Mrs Slocombe. 'He invented it - Maurice Dancing. Only you have to say it with a French accent to get the full effect.'

Mrs Miggins began to wonder exactly what kind of place they'd come to. Perhaps this was casserole after all.

'He was a pioneer of the cultural dance form,' said Mrs Slocombe. 'He was a French Maran cockerel. Started as an egg in Clackett Lane Services. Almost ended up as part of a traditional English breakfast. The cook cracked the egg onto the grill, and out he popped. 'Cor blimey,' said the cook, or words to that effect, 'it's a ripe egg.' Well, Great-Uncle Maurice made a dash for it across the bacon and black pudding. Jumped off the counter and ran through the dinette, causing a lot of malarkey as he went. He ran into the lorry park and hopped aboard a lorry that was heading for Calais with a consignment of Yorkshire parkin.'
'He was a stowaway,' breathed Mrs Pumphrey, who loved the romaticism of all things to do with pirates. And lorry drivers.
'Sort of,' said Slocombe. 'Only the lorry driver found him when he stopped at Dover to fill up with Pot Noodle. 'I can't take livestock through Customs,' he said, in his big gruff lorry driver voice. Well, Great-Uncle Maurice thought he was toast, a chick alone in a ferry port, and he begged to be taken across the waters. The lorry driver thought for a while. 'Okay,' he said. 'But you'll need to do exactly as I tell you.'

'What happened next?' asked Mrs Pumphrey, aware that there needed to be a break in the text in order to make the story easier for the reader to digest.

'Well,' said Mrs Slocombe. 'The lorry carried on through Dover and as they were boarding the ferry, a Customs Officer stopped them and indicated for the driver to wind down his window.'
'Did this driver have a name?' interrupted Mrs Miggins, who was beginning to doubt the validity of this unlikely tale.
'No,' said Mrs Slocombe. 'This is the only appearance he'll be making in this novel, so therefore requires no further identification.'
'She's right,' agreed Mrs Pumphrey. 'Otherwise we'll have to complicate matters with back story and unnecessary characterisation.'
'Do continue,' said Mrs Miggins.
'WHAT'S THAT ON YOUR DASHBOARD?' demanded the Customs Officer,' shouted Mrs Slocombe, for full effect.
'It's one of those dancing chick toys,' said the lorry driver.
'A dancing chick toy?' said the Customs Officer, because shouting had hurt his throat. 'I've never heard of a dancing chick toy.'
'Course you have,' said the lorry driver. 'Remember a few Christmases ago when those singing fish were all the rage?'
'Yes,' said the Customs Officer. He'd received one himself from his wife. He wasn't best amused as he'd been hoping for a remote controlled Dalek.
'Well, this year, dancing chicks are all the rage,' said the lorry driver.

The Customs Officer regarded the lorry driver with suspicion. He wasn't convinced of the old dancing chick story.

'Make it dance, then,' he said. The blood froze in the lorry driver's veins, but Great-Uncle Maurice didn't flinch. The lorry driver leant forward and tweaked Great-Uncle Maurice's right wing as if pressing an on/off button.

'And?' said Mrs Pumphrey, who was by now fair bursting with excitement.

'And Great-Uncle Maurice began to dance!' said Mrs Slocombe, triumphantly. 'He kicked his little chicken feet and flapped his little chicken wings and danced as if his life depended on it.'

'Is it time for tea and crumpets?' asked Mrs Miggins, who'd been spending the time ticking off her Filofax list and was being thus far hugely disapppointed, especially at the obvious lack of hot tub facilities on the premises. Mrs Slocombe fixed Mrs Miggins with her one good eye.

'And the Custom Officer said, 'That has got to be the most stupid thing I've ever seen. Get a move on, lorry driver, you're holding up the loading process with your tacky chicken toy.' And they were through Dover and into Calais before you could say 'Robert est ton oncle.'

'Bravo!' said Mrs Pumphrey.
'Merci beaucoup,' said Mrs Slocombe, doing a little curtsey and getting ribbon tangled around her knees.

'I really need a crumpet,' said Mrs Miggins.

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