Well, my sojourn among the chickens is over and, of course, I am missing the little blighters.
It’s true, they’re a bit dim and not very good at fetching sticks. But, then again, the same could be said about me.
I liked stravaiging down in my wellies to the coop as soon as I got up in the morning.
I felt like George Wellbeloved, the slightly unreliable pig-keeper employed by Lord Emsworth to look after his prize porker, The Empress of Blandings, in the PG Wodehouse books (a little of which I read every day, as did the late Queen Mother).
On the wider front, my love of the lawn tractor went a little sour when it broke down, after making a high-pitched whistling noise and giving off a smell of burning rubber (the tractor, that is, not me).
At the same time, I couldn’t get the petrol-driven strimmer to start, and the manual lawnmower kept getting stuck, as these useless articles always do.
One day, fed up of all this, I was staggering out of the orchard, waving a fist at the sky and whatever deity might be skulking therein, cursing loudly and in the most offensive terms, when I noticed a neighbour standing in the drive watching me. Typical. But what can you do?
I should have barked: “And what the hell do you want?” But, instead, I put a lot of effort into appearing normal for the next ten minutes, which was exhausting and forced me to have a long lie-down.
I was worried about the tractor, thinking I’d broken it, but with the help of Google and YouTube, soon got it working again (and the strimmer and the manual lawnmower). What did we do before computers?
Looking after pets and someone else’s house is stressful. It’s not just a dread that one of the beasties will peg out on your watch. It’s the domestic responsibility.
You see a stain on the expensive carpet and can’t remember if it was always there or if it was you. Before the owners get back, I scrub and scrub, like I never do in my own house, and feel like such a hypocrite. I even ironed something.
Worse than all of that is having to replace all the comestibles I’ve consumed. I don’t permit myself much in the way of crisps and so forth at home but, when I find them in other people’s cupboards, I gorge myself till I slump to the floor, a bloated blob.
In this latest stay, I even ate all the grandchildren’s chewy sweets, and then spent ages in shops trying to find the exact same replacements. Ditto the whisky.
It depends who it is. My friends at Swanky Towers (the cat place) give me carte blanche to help myself but have observed somewhat tetchily that each of their bottles now has just a centimetre of liquid left at the bottom. And I thought I was being polite in not finishing them off.
In truth, I’m thinking of retiring from this pet-watching malarkey because of all the stress. But when I got back to my suburban ghetto and couldn’t get parked, and saw the net curtains twitching, I pined for the big green spaces, the chickens, crisps, sweeties and whisky.