I am astounded by my multi-tasking abilities. I bask in anticipation of the praise sure to fall from my husband when he returns from his week away to find I have not only finished painting the chicken house, but have built an entire run from scratch. I am a veritable land girl, green-fingered, tousle-haired and worthy of a remake of The Good Life (without the dungarees, which are only really a good look in Australian womens’ prisons).
Part of my new Operation Work/Life Balance is the Acquisition of Poultry, guaranteed to provoke an all-pervading feeling of well-being. I close my eyes and see a long summer stretching before me, ice clinking in my Pimms as I lean back onto my lounger and listen to the hens pecking at their… what do chickens eat anyway? Bread perhaps. Corn probably. I’ll find out before I get them, obviously.
The chicken run is a masterpiece; a formidable wooden structure patchworked with meshed wire, lovingly and permanently attached with my new favourite toy; the Staple Gun. I have not been so excited about a tool since the enforced end of my long-term relationship with the Rampant Rabbit (new readers, click here to find out what happened to that poor beast). The Staple Gun is a gleaming monster, capable of taking an eye out at twenty paces and requiring considerable effort to drive each staple deep into the wooden fra
me. Nearly an hour ago I crawled into the run to finish the last panel, and have been pleasantly surprised that the marauding pygmies have played contently for long enough for me to finish. They are getting fractious as I squeeze the trigger and complete the last of the sixty four staples needed to combat Mr Fox. Maybe sixty four was a tad over-enthusiastic, but honestly you should feel the power in your hand…
Almost before I release the gun I realise my enormous mistake. A day-one, week-one, school-boy error which makes me sick to the very pit of my stomach. I squeeze my eyes tightly shut and pray that when I open them I will discover I am mistaken, but when I finally prise my eyelids apart the situation is no better. I am imprisoned within a wire cube, door firmly bolted on the outside, two year old twins rampaging around the garden, and a feeling of intense claustraphobia welling up inside me. This is not good. E looks at me and laughs, and I swear there is a glint in her eye as she turns tail and runs inside the house. G climbs the low wall surrounding the lawn and totters precariously along its edge. I have to get out of here.
I push in vain against the chicken wire, but I’m no match for my erstwhile trigger-happy anti-fox approach. What a fucking idiot. I’m not even sure we have foxes round here. I resign myself to the prospect of removing each and every sixty four staples in turn, and I use a corner of the staple gun to begin prising the first unwilling victim from its home. Ping! It shoots out, narrowly missing my face and landing in the bushes. Oh bollocks, I’m sure I should be wearing goggles. I’m going to do the next one with my eyes shut. Ping! Ping! There is a resounding crash from inside the house…
I’m barely a dozen staples in before G falls off the wall. She lies spread-eagled on her stomach and screams like she’s found a hedgehog in her nappy. Ping! Ping! Ping! Ping! I can’t see blood; I think she’s okay. Ping! Ping! There is another crash from inside, followed by an ominous silence. I’m sweating now, working like a woman possessed, cursing my stupidity at painting myself into such a corner and wondering why Operation Work/Life Balance couldn’t simply have required the acquisition of a small hamster, the cage of which I would have been less likely to penetrate. Ping! Ping! Ping!
Oh God. It’s the neighbour. I can’t see him, but I know he’s peering over the fence, seeing if everything’s alright. He mustn’t see me like this. He already thinks I’m a lunatic, after that time I put the bins out wearing half a Robin Hood outfit. I drop down to the floor, combat-style, and wait for a safe silence. Shit, now he’s going to call Social Services and report that I’ve abandoned G in the garden. Well bring it on, it can’t be any worse than being trapped in a chicken run. Ping! Ping!
My fingers are bleeding and I’ve still only managed to peel back a quarter of the space needed to squeeze my enormous bottom through the wire, when a familiar sinking feeling returns. I am an idiot. Oh, I know we’ve established that already, but trust me, now I’m really an idiot. The chicken run may have a roof. And four walls. But it doesn’t have a floor… All I needed to do is lift up the frame and slide out. No staples to remove, no macerated fingers, no marauding twins…
I stand up and dust off my dignity before scooping up G under one arm and bracing myself to face Armageddon iside the house. The good life? I can’t wait.