Primrose is standing on the table with her beak pressed firmly against my nose. We are eyeball to eyeball, the hen and I. One false move and a minor impalement could occur. And it will be me, I suspect, who will come off worse.
'You said,' says Primrose, 'that this year we could do a pantomime. You distinctly said, and I quote, 'Let's do panto this year - I could do with a laugh.'
I have to admit she is correct. I did say this. However, I said it in a moment of roof-related depression when Christmas was a long, long way into the future and now I am wishing that a) I hadn't said it and b) hens didn't have such good memories.
'In my defence,' I say, 'I didn't actually promise we would do panto this year. As you know, I never promise anything. The only promise I have ever made in my life was on the day Andy and I got married. And that was only because God was watching.'
'Hmmmm...' says Primrose. She steps back from my face, for which I am immediately grateful as I am going more than a little cross-eyed. 'Promise, shmomish. I've been chatting to the girls and we are all up for pantomime. As is Tango Pete.'
'It's him who put me off,' I say. 'Have you seen his panto tights? They are not for the faint-hearted.
(At this point I feel I need to sketch a few details for the newer guests at Much Malarkey Manor. The Much Malarkey Manor Christmas Story consists mostly of chickens. It is the rule, nay, the law even. And all the Much Malarkey Manor hens that ever there have been are involved. Even the ones who have gone to the Great Eglu in the Sky. Which means this year our Christmas Story will feature : Mrs Bennett, Mrs Miggins, Mrs Poo, Mrs Slocombe, Mrs Pumphrey, Daisy, Primrose and our latest addition, Camilla. Who, you will be pleased to know, has laid 4 eggs in the last 5 days. And has taken to marching into the house as if she owns the place. Cheeky girl!)
'Panto would offer a goodly number of roles for the girls to play,' I say. 'But I have another idea. Something a little more sophisticated, if you like. A bit more Continental...'
'Croquembouche?' says Primrose.
'No..' I say.
'Pannetone?' says Primrose.
'No...' I say.
'An enormous spicy German sausage?' says Primrose.
'Definitely not,' says I, 'and if you think you're going to seduce me into pantomime by introducing double entrendres into the conversation, think again.'
'Dang!' says Primrose, who has been reading the cookery book sent by our Texan chum, Deanna, as is getting right on down with the lingo.
'What I had in mind,' I say, 'is a retelling of the famous and traditional Christmas story of The Nutcracker and the Mouse King.'
Primrose looks at me, blankly.
'Which was interpreted into the famous ballet 'The Nutcracker Suite,' I say. 'You know - 'The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy and all that?'
'So,' says Primrose, 'you reject the pantomime because of the heady combination of Tango Pete and spangly tights, yet you are happy to put on a ballet. Which is famous for its many dancers all clad in tights.'
I immediately see the flaw in my plan. Or at least the flaw immediately leapt upon by the sharp-brained hen. 'Ah,' I say, 'but it won't be the ballet version. It will be the proper story-telling version. No tights.'
Primrose, I can see, is giving this idea some thought. 'So does it involve nuts?' she says.
'Yes,' I say. 'A special magical nut that is capable of breaking a curse.'
'Is it the kind of nut you'd find in a pair of ballet tights?' says Primrose.
'Definitely not,' I say. 'And I think you should apologise to our more sensitive guests for that quite indecent and most unChristmassy of images.'
'Oh pfooey!' says Primrose. 'If the guests aren't used to us by now they never will be. So is it the kind of nut found in a cake?'
I nod. 'Yes. Just like that.'
'And does it have crackers?' says Primrose. 'I like crackers. Especially those cheesy ones with bits of chive in them.'
'It doesn't have that kind of cracker,' I admit. 'It has a Nutcracker.'
'Sounds painful,' says Primrose. 'And sweets?'
'Not sweets,' I say. 'Suite. You're confusing your homophones.'
Primrose sighs. 'I'm not surprised. It's been a long day. Could we maybe put some sweets in it?'
'If you like,' I say. 'But nothing with nougat. Or aniseed. Or liquorice.'
Primrose jumps off the table. 'I shall go and consult with the girls. Who is the main character in 'The Magic Nut, the Wrong Crackers and the Mistaken Sweet?'
'Oh good grief,' I say, but I don't have the will or the energy to argue.'The heroine is a young girl called Marie. There is also a Mouse King, a Mouse Queen, a human King and a human Queen, an Inventor and his Nephew, and a horrid princess called Pirlipat.'
'Pearly Pat?' says Primrose. 'PEARLY PAT? What do you think this is? Eastenders?'
I sigh. 'Just look on the interwebbly, read the story and tell me what you think. Let me know tomorrow.'
'Why tomorrow?' says Primrose.
'Because I'm not writing any more today,' I say.