Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Chicken and Egg

Today I purchased six eggs from a colleague at work who keeps hens...

As I walked back down to the malware analysis labs where I spend my working day, I couldn't help thinking of my home-village in Brittany and the friends there who also keep chickens. Which drew me to a post that I wrote five years ago, at which time the seeds for my departure from Brittany had just been sown, while I was feeling homesick and following a bout of the flu, and were starting to sprout as my relationship with my then-partner was hitting a difficult patch.

I should mention that P. of the K&P couple has since passed away. He was a lovely man, cheerful, cheeky and a good friend, his passing was deeply felt by all of my French Tribe, and by me.

So this post is dedicated, with love, to Paul.


Meanwhile, here in France
We are the temporary carers of our friends K&P's flock of ducks, chickens and geese.

chicken -> noun 1 a domestic fowl kept for its eggs or meat, especially a young one
# [mass noun] meat from a chicken: roast chicken
2 [mass noun] informal a game in which the first person to lose their nerve and withdraw from a dangerous situation is the loser
# [count noun] a coward
-> adjective [predic] informal cowardly; I was too chicken to go to court
-> verb [no obj] (chicken out) informal withdraw from or fail in something through lack of nerve: the referee chickened out of giving a penalty
- PHRASES chicken-and-egg denoting a situation in which each of two things appears to be necessary to the other. don't count your chickens before they're hatched see COUNT. like a headless chicken informal in a panic-stricken and unthinking manner
- ORIGIN Old English cicen, cyen, of Germanic origin: related to Dutch Kuchlein, and probably also to COCK

Most people in the commune keep chickens for their eggs and for the occasional casserole/roast dinner/pie (delete as appropriate)

My neighbour R. regularly leaves a box of neatly-numbered eggs on my kitchen table

The fowl-fanatics K&P treat The Someone to a goose egg and artery-cloggingly rich duck eggs from time to time...

Our friend HH has a lovely hay-filled barn full of cheerful chickens and dapper ducks...

The Dashing One keeps his paltry poultry in the same dark, damp shed where the Pathetic Pig passed a miserable 10 months before being dragged out and slaughtered in the road behind my house one day last month.

The English residents of the commune treat their animals with a great deal more care and consideration than do the Breton locals. Not that I am judging anyone. As the saying goes one must walk a mile in someone's shoes before passing judgement on his actions. And wooden Breton clogs are far from comfortable foot-attire!

So, poultry are purchased from the weekly markets

Downy ducklings that huddle in a heap of frightened feathers

The Ladies.....

and The gentlemen.....

Yes, of course I have been tempted.
Especially by the cheeping chicks and dabbling ducklings

But to purchase poultry and house hens would mean making a committment, albeit only a token symbolic gesture, to remaining in France that I am not, at this time, prepared to make.

So, for now I am playing at poultry farming...

Which means an early walk down to the house near the station to let out:

9 brown hens
2 white hens
1 enthusiastic cockerell
6 ducks
1 large white and black duck called Arnold
2 geese

I would have said "so far, so good" except that this morning I lifted the lid on one of the nesting boxes and found a dead hen inside. It was an unpleasant early-morning encounter and one that made tears well up in my eyes. I always did cry easily. Always was too soft-hearted.

Life is so transitory. We're here one minute and gone the next.

As I stood gazing down at the dead hen, stiff with rigor mortis, feathers all in disarray, beak open in a last mute cry to the cold morning wind, I thought back to all of the people I have loved and lost. When I was a child I naively expected that all of the people I loved would remain in my life forever. That I would grow old and they would just grow very, very old alongside me. Twenty years ago that faith was shattered with the death of my father.

We all think that we are special, that we are immune to death's icy touch. Yet in the blink of an eye we all simply cease to be and the planet continues to circle the sun, day follows night, spring follows winter, life goes on...

This morning we fed bread, corn and vegetable scraps to the chickens. Yesterday's failure of a pie crust was very much appreciated by a little light brown hen who appears to have adopted me and tries to follow me home. I didn't tell her I was probably making quiche with her eggs at the time....

We gathered up the dead hen and we placed her carefully in a bag and we left the living chickens, ducks and geese happily clucking in the little orchard

chicken and egg...


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