‘Woof woof woofety woof’ came from outside – oh god. I know I’ve said it before ,but staying over with the grandchildren can be a mixed blessing and if you’re a light sleeper in England, you’ll be one in Argentina too. In Essex, it was the dishwasher on at night, here they have dogs, three big ones, who live in the garden. Woof woof woofety woof – my earplugs were in, but they weren’t much help.
Which so-and-soing hound from hell was it? Probably the new one, Cristal, who was a cute little puppy last time I was here, but this time welcomed me (after a 24-hour journey) by jumping up at me, putting her huge heavy paws on my chest and sniffing at my face with her huge wet doggy nose – aaargg. ‘Woof, woofety woof woof’ – yes, it’s her, I thought, she gets into the garden next door then can’t so-and-soing-well get back. The glowing face of my phone said 4.10am. My granddaughter (aged 11, like one of her cousins in Essex) stirred in the bed – noooo – please god, don’t let her wake up. She finds it difficult to drop off – a foot massage helps, but I certainly wasn’t in the mood for that.
Woof woofety woof woof – hell and so-and-soing damnation. Should I go out into the garden and get Cristal back in? My son told me once that he’d gone outside in his pjs one night and a burly policeman with a gun on his hip got out of a patrol car, said ‘Hola, hola, hola’ and asked him what he was up to. ‘Evening, officer,’ he’d replied (but in Spanish), ‘I’m trying to get the dogs to shut the hell up’ or something rather more pithy and the officer took pity on him and drove off. This time, if he saw a little grey-haired granny in a nightie in the garden in the dark, he’d maybe just shrug and think it was the nocturnal version of ‘mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the blah blah blah’, but I didn’t want to chance it. At 5.56am cameth the dawn. ‘Cock a doodle do! Cock a doodle doo!’ floated up from the chicken run in the garden. Aaargggg – I pictured roast cockerel for lunch. Yes, murder most fowl was definitely on the cards.
It was my granddaughter who found the body in the front garden. ‘Gran. gran,’ she cried, ‘you have to phone Papi.’ My son was in the forest building a mud house, as you do. ‘Is it the cockerel?’ he asked, ‘No,’ I replied, thinking more’s the pity.
My granddaughter here has been raised by her dad on Scooby Doo and Inspector Gadget and his favourite game is Cluedo. So, unlike her cousin of the same age in Essex who finds the words Agatha Christie the stuff of nightmares, she’s a great fan of Poirot and Miss Marple. Her dad had got in some of their DVDs since he’s keen to keep his two children’s English going though I did point out that in Poirot and Miss Marple it’s not exactly 2016 banter. Anyway, my granddaughter peered at the prone chicken much like Miss Marple inspecting the body in Murder in the Library. ‘There’s no sign of an attack,’ she observed. But as I went to put the brown feathered body into a cardboard box, yuk, some of its innards fell out. One of the dogs ran up and sniffed at it. My granddaughter said ‘No, Cristal,’ for, yes, it was she and the dog cowed down rather guiltily. ‘Hm,’ said my granddaughter, ‘she has blood on her paw, but there’s no sign of an injury.’ Hm, indeed.
‘The evidence shows that the crime took place in the garden,’ said my son who was back home and using his little grey cells à la Poirot (in all episodes obvs), ‘since there are no paw prints or sign of a struggle in the chicken run.’ So had the victim found a hole in the chicken wire and tried to make a bid for freedom? (Cue: I wanna break free and Freddy Mercury with hoover.) And how long had the victim been dead? My daughter-in-law arrived. ‘I left the house at 4.15pm,’ she said. ‘Hm,’ I said, cocking my head on one side trying to look like Geraldine MacEwan as Marple in The 4.50 from Paddington, but probably looking more like the chicken when alive. ‘And we arrived at 4.30pm which suggests the victim died between 4.15 and 4.30.” Hm,’ said my daughter-in-law – yes, she was at it too – but it turned out that she was more interested in assessing whether the chicken was edible or not. ‘I’m not eating that chicken,’ said my granddaughter firmly.
My son rinsed the blood off the axe under the kitchen tap. The headless corpse was ready for plucking, but I noticed it bubbling away in his wok with its feathers still on. ‘You need to get the feathers off before you cook it,’ I suggested helpfully. ‘Yes, mum, I know,’ he sighed, ‘but we phoned a friend who used to be a chicken farmer and he said it makes it easier to pluck.’ Well, soon the chicken resembled one of those best value bargain birds at £3.50 in Tesco’s. However, this chicken had obviously been free range.
‘How does this look, gran?’ said my granddaughter later that evening. She was wearing a hairband she’d made with a ribbon across her forehead. ‘Very 1960s,’ I replied. ‘Flower power, peace and love and all that’ and I went and started reminiscing about life back then. She listened patiently then said, ‘No, gran,’ and she picked up a brown feather from a pile she’d got from her dad and stuck it in the headband at the back of her head. ‘I was thinking more Native American – in memory of the chicken.’ Brave chicken, RIP.
*Granny on the frontline is Jill Garner, grandmother of six.