The hangover, the witch and the wardrobe

In The Sticks
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The Independent Culture
WHERE DO Jehovah's Witnesses come from? I never hear a car come down the lane, and it must be 15 miles to the nearest Kingdom Hall. I don't even know how they find us, because nobody else can; when Louis, our regular postman, goes to Bideford to stay with his cousins in July, we don't get any post for two weeks. If I wasn't a good card-carrying Darwinian I might begin to believe in spontaneous generation, that Jehovah's Witnesses simply arise from discarded hymn books or the mud at the bottom of flower urns in cemeteries.

They did their annual materialisation last Saturday morning in a mixed sex trio, although it was hard to guess what those sexes might be. Clutching pamphlets to their bosoms, or whatever sin-free area it is they have in lieu of bosoms, their clean little faces peeped over the top of my stable door.

It wasn't exactly a classic country kitchen scene that met them: Friday night's wine-tasting session had got out of hand because Richie, our three- fields-away vintner neighbour, was too enthusiastic. I don't think any of us could have told a premier cru from a bottle of ketchup by the end of the third case. There was chicken blood and feathers all over the table because I'd started my day at dawn doing emergency surgery on our two oversexed cockerels, who'd nearly killed each other again. And the whole kitchen smelled of goat because the sarongs that Buster (11) and Bunny (nine) brought back from hols with their dad - we're divorced - were festooned over the Aga drying. I was sitting with my new chap very quietly amidst the empties, drinking ruby grapefruit juice - because it was the only thing left in the fridge and there was no coffee - and taking it in turns to doodle on the side of a wine box in an attempt to persuade something to come into focus.

I saw for a split second the scene through the eyes of the visitors: a women and a man sitting at a table drawing bold red shapes (only thing to hand a magic marker) and drinking a blood-like fluid. They have hardly any clothes on (nightie, pyjama bottoms). The remains of ritual sacrifice are on the table. And the pagan robes from last night's bacchanal are hanging up to dry.

I expected them to whip out the bell, the book and the candle on the spot, but, before they had the chance to do so, a couple about whom I'd utterly forgotten arrived to view the hideous (but, I pray, valuable) wardrobe in our bedroom, which was in the small ads of the local paper last week.

They were elderly and must have been in mourning, or were, perhaps, acolytes for the Grim Reaper - for both of them were dressed entirely in black. The Witnesses evidently took them to be more members of the coven arriving for a swift half of virgin's blood before lunch. Outnumbered, they just shoved some anti-evolution literature through the open door and fled. At least the gossip value of such a scene meant that it wouldn't be long before a retelling.

The wardrobe couple didn't seem keen on social interaction, or even giving me time to tidy the bedroom before they went up to inspect the "item", as they kept calling it. They progressed upstairs like automata, with me scuttling in front swishing things behind cushions and trying to remember not to bend over as my nightie doesn't really conceal anything at either end if I lean more than 30 degrees off the vertical.

I yanked the cover over the bed and was explaining about the glorious carving and how my mother acquired the wardrobe in a sale in Solihull in 1956 when I noticed something pink against the blue carpet. It was a small, sad contraceptive, curled like a squashed prawn. There's no way they missed it. Their expression of distaste suggested that they had never had sex of any sort, with any one at any time.

I think it put them off the wardrobe. They drove away with more haste than was decent in people so old and so pious-looking. It's my fault for not allowing the dog upstairs, because our last condom embarrassment was canine-solved: we had gingerly e-mailed a friend to say that we'd left something behind under her spare bed; she said no problem - the border terrier eats the used ones. I'm pretty sure collie crosses do the same.

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