"Have I ever told you about my drunken chicken?"
"No Stanley, I don't think you have." replies Little Nance.
"You remember Lizzie Kalinthrop, well she and I saw a bit of each other a couple of years back. One Saturday morning she was bringing me home in that red Morris Minor of hers, we were going along the Watchester bypass when I saw a white chicken prowling along the hard shoulder. I guess that she had fallen off the back of a lorry heading for the chicken factory in Martingdale. The rain was pouring down as Lizzie and I chased the chicken over the hard shoulder until we caught her, I held the wet white bundle of feathers tightly as we drove towards Wymsey and I could feel the chicken heart beating rapidly against my ribs.
When we got to my place we put the hen in the greenhouse while Lizzie and I cleaned out the old chicken coup. I read the Backyard Poultry Book, got corn from the merchants and named the chicken Clara, she had an inquisitive, stubborn air about her - for a chicken."
"Bloody Clara!" sneers the Snorter.
"Well, she settled down to laying four eggs a week and free-ranging over the house and garden. Clara was not a particularly intelligent gardener, she never learnt not to eat worms and whenever I was about to turn over a spade of soil her head would be underneath.
One weekend Lizzie and I were sitting on the lawn and well into her homemade strawberry wine when Clara came up to get some attention, the cat ran off and that mutt of mine hid behind the dustbin. It was a hot day and being thirsty Clara made for my glass, now it does not take much to make a chicken merry - she was soon clucking loudly and running around in circles with her head cocked over at an impossible angle."
"The next day she had a stinking hangover and grumbled to herself continually, even so no drink is safe when she is around and what must be frustrating for Clara is that she could not tell the difference between a full or empty glass."
"Does she lay pickled eggs?" the Nam wants to know.
"I bet it was the bloody RSPB who told you to give up drinking," scoffs the Snorter.
"The Romans used to put live fish in vats of wine before cooking them." John informs them.
"I suppose it was better than being left to suffocate in air." Little Nance says through trembling lips.
"Well, I hope it was dry white." say the Nam who knows about these things.
"What ever happened to Lizzie Kalinthrop?" The Nam asks, what he really wants to know is why she and I stopped seeing each other; this is due to his renowned interest in relationships.
"She married Jackie Smith over at Shavingham."
"Did she keep her own name?" Sniggers the Snorter.
"What, the water bailiff?" Nance wants to know.
"Why did you and she stop seeing each other?" Persists the Nam.
"She probably couldn't compete with a bloody drunken chicken."
"I suppose it came down to my feelings of being taken over." I tell the Nam. "What like tidying your things away and starting sentences with 'why don't you'" The Nam, who has a lot of expertise in this area, suggests.
"I didn't mind that so much, for a start she always used my toothbrush but it was mainly the fact that she wanted to sleep on my side of the bed."
John who feels, rightly, ill-equipped to take part in the conversation, gathers up the glasses and heads for the bar.
"Do you think that you will ever get married Gordon?" Little Nance asks the Nam.
"I don't know about marriage maybe a Cosmic Union would be my ideal." he replies.
"What the hell's that?"
"Well, it would be a relationship where the two people are at one with themselves and the Universe."
"A bit like my pigs flying then."
The Nam is saved from further embarrassment by the arrival of our drinks.