The Goring? Fine choice, princess-to-be

It was a few years ago and it was, inevitably, a freebie, but we have stayed in the very (expensive) hotel in which the future Queen Catherine of England will pass her last night as a single woman.

The Goring was a very pleasant place to stay; we had a beautifully decorated room, a huge marble bathroom and they have a first-rate dining room.

To us country bumpkins it was a shade intimidating, with uniformed flunkeys everywhere and your tight-fisted scribe having no idea when or how much to tip.

Still, it will be a nice place to get the soon-to-be-royal head down for the night, provided that they don’t have the same energetic couple staying in the next room that we had. Earplugs, anyone?

But never mind royal shenanigans, its back to basics with our crack at the good life and though they might look like the survivors of an explosion in a henhouse, they’re finally here.


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Mabel, Daisy, Nell and Hayley woke up on Saturday morning with thousands of other chickens in a battery farm in the grimy environs of Coventry and went to sleep on Saturday evening in a rather smart coop in the leafy ‘burbs of Ipswich.

They’ve settled in well. It has to be said that none of them are lookers, in the hen sense. Honestly, if you could look at these poor little bloods and carry on buying battery farmed eggs then you have no heart at all.

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Mabel – that’s her on the right – is the smallest, scraggiest little bird, but she’s also in charge. Within a couple of hours she had asserted herself over the others with a short but violent-looking series of peckings and kickings. You will be surprised to learn that this is Small But Fierce of Ipswich’s chook of choice.

Mabel’s also in charge of the escape committee. Within minutes of being allowed to explore she was at the gate, running a beady little eye over it to check for weak points, then burrowing into a hedge to see if there was a way out there.

She nipped into the house when we weren’t looking to do a quick recce of the lounge and possibly take an imprint of a front door key for later.

Then she was tapping at the fence to make morse code contact with next door’s chickens and frankly I won’t be surprised if we discover a tunnel under the feeders in the morning with a note to say ‘so long and thanks for the grain’.

The Ginger Ninja’s chook is Hayley, who is named after a pop star who wears a floppy fringe over one eye. Hayley Hen wears a floppy comb over one eye in homage. Daisy is the quiet one, a possible hypochondriac who sometimes walks with a limp and has no tail feathers at all.

Nell, named after model, celebrity mum and marathon athlete Nell McAndrew, is mine; the biggest and best-looking of the quartet and the noisiest, bokking away pretty much continually.

And bless their little bald behinds they’ve been laying like they’re on piecework; we had an omelette from their eggs 48 hours after they’d arrived. Cracking!

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