'What's this then?' says Mrs Pumphrey, holding up two large white loaves, fresh and uncut from the Malarkey Manor kitchens, courtesy of Chef Lord Andy.
'Two large white loaves?' says Mrs Miggins.
Mrs Pumphrey sighs. 'Yes - but WHAT do they represent?'
Mrs Miggins narrows her eyes. 'Bread?' she says.
'Bloomers!' says Mrs Pumphrey, impatiently triumphant and triumphantly impatient at the same time.
'I don't think you are getting this 'pantomime' thing, are you?' says Mrs Miggins, and she casts her eyes to the ground where lie discarded the 'g' string of a guitar, a pair of boxing gloves and a picture of a pirate with a peg leg.
'Oh yes I do,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'It's simple. It's mimes of pants,' and she sweeps her wing over the debris. 'Bloomers, boxers, g-strings and Long John Silvers.'
'For the love of the Christmas Fairy Nuff and her fancy Christmas wings,' says Mrs Miggins, 'pantomime, for the millionth time, has NOTHING to do with pants. Of any shape or variety.'
Mrs Pumphrey places the loaves on the kitchen table. 'Toast?' she says.
'If we must,' says Mrs Miggins, who knows that the best way to bring a conversation back to normality is to break for hot buttered toast, minimum two slices, Marmite optional. She sits in her rocking chair by the kitchen range and takes up her knitting whilst Mrs Pumphrey bustles around, and soon a plate of toast and pot of tea is calming nerves.
'So, says Mrs Pumphrey, wiping a blob of 2013 vintage marmalade from her beak, 'tell me again - what IS pantomime?'
Mrs Miggins lays down her knitting. She is at a particularly tricky point in her pattern - k3,p1tbl, rep 2, p2, k1p1, SKPO 5 times, m1, inc3 in same st, dec 2 tbl...well, you get the gist - and needed full concentration which meant no Mrs Pumphrey wittering within a five mile radius.
'Right, well basically, pantomime has its roots in the style of theatre called commedia dell'arte,' says Mrs Miggins.
'Del who?' says Mrs Pumphrey.
'Arte,' says Mrs Miggins.
'Is that short for Arthur?' says Mrs Pumphrey.
'No,' says Mrs Miggins.
'Only I had an Uncle Arthur once,' says Mrs Pumphrey, 'and he was called Art for short because his wife, my Aunt Agnes, didn't have any teeth so her pronunciation of the consonant digraph 'th' was compromised...'
'Of course it was compromised,' says Mrs Miggins, 'because your Aunt, like us, was a hen and hens do not have teeth.'
Mrs Pumphrey seems surprised by this revelation and immediately takes her compact from her handbag to check. After close examination she frowns.
'What's this I've got a bit of marmalade stuck between then?' she says.
Mrs Miggins examines the inside of Pumphrey's beak. 'A harmonica, apparently,' she says, removing the offending article and wiping it on her pinny.
'I wondered where that had got to!' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'And I thought my bronchitis wheeze was sounding rather tuneful of late.'
'Can we get on?' says Mrs Miggins.
'Be my guest,' says Mrs Pumphrey, graciously.
'So in commedia dell'arte, or 'pantomime' as we have come to know it, there is a set of traditional stock characters...'
'I hope it's vegetarian stock,' mutters Mrs Pumphrey.
'Hush,' says Miggins, 'and they are the Principal Boy who is played by a girl, the Dame who is played by a boy, a Prince...'
'...who is played by a short-arse singer with a dubious hairdo and beard combo,' says Mrs P.
'...and a beautiful princess and a wicked character which might be an evil queen, a witch, a sorcerer, a King Rat, a Grand Vizier or Simon Cowell,' says Mrs Miggins hurriedly, because she is really getting bored of this now and wants to test out the new sauna in the West Wing guest bathroom.
'Sounds weird to me,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'Not very classical or refined.'
'It's meant to be weird. Funny. Topsy-turvy,' says Mrs Miggins. 'In keeping with the joy and fun of the season. Lots of silly jokes and japes and double entrendres.'
'Dooble ontondrers?' says Mrs Pumphrey.
'Yes, you know,' says Mrs Miggins. 'Like in the joke - 'A woman walks into a bar and asks for a double entendre so the barman gives her one.'
There is a long silence whilst the electrical impulses in Mrs Pumphrey's brain attempt to pole vault the synapses in her neural pathways.
'Nope,' she says. 'You'll have to run that by me again.'
'I don't have time,' says Mrs Miggins. 'I have to gather together the gals and Tango Pete for casting and put together a rehearsal schedule. And you are in charge of costumes. Think glitter, sequins, feathers, bright colours and enormous wigs.'
Mrs Pumphrey brightens immediately. 'Now that sounds a job right up my street,' she says. 'But are you sure there are no pants involved.'
'Positive,' says Mrs Miggins. 'And tomorrow I need you to take the star of the show shoe shopping. Well, boot shopping actually. You'll like her. She's a cat. Enormous furry trousers.'
'What's this pantomime called then?' says Mrs Pumphrey.
Mrs Miggins looks at her somewhat askance given the massive clue she's just given.
'Really?' she says. 'A kitty and some boots?'
Mrs Pumphrey shrugs. 'Cat In Stilettoes?' she says. 'Or Feline In Slippers? That'd be funny.'
'It's going to be a long December,' sighs Mrs Miggins.
'You're telling me,' says I.