Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Moving home

All was quiet, tranquil and calm. I reached in and very gently picked up the hen. She had been sitting on eggs in the main chicken house and very cleverly hatched five chicks. Now she was off the nest and unsure where to settle had gathered her babies under her and plonked herself down in the doorway, which was hardly the safest place.

So I needed to move her. So I picked her up.

She screeched. She screeched and screeched and screeched and flapped her wings and went into complete chicken hysterical meltdown. Sometimes language is no barrier. It wasn’t hard to work out what she was screeching. She was calling for help. She was calling for lots of help.

She was calling for the police. She was calling for the army. She was calling for the air force, the navy, the cavalry and the gods of war. She was calling for a swat team and helicopters and napalm. She was calling for Heaven to rain down thunderbolts and Hell to rise up. She was, it’s fair to say, emotional.

The cockerel was the first to respond to his damsel in distress. He charged at me talons flying. I ducked and shouted at him. Then the goat joined in and attempting to protect me started trying to head-but the cockerel.

My dog was running round in circles barking, the hen screeching, the cockerel attacking me and at the same time fending off the goat, and the goat trying to head-but the cockerel.

Then the geese joined in. Geese love any excuse for a scrap. Good gander that he is, he stood to one side while his wife did the goose equivalent of taking off her stilettos and shouldering in, wings back, chest out, mouth open and tongue going nineteen to the dozen.

The hen was screeching, the dog barking, the cockerel attacking, the goat head-butting, the geese scrapping… and then the pigs joined in. Luckily they were in their pen to one side and couldn’t actually get over to us, but they showed their solidarity with their brothers and sisters against the evil oppressor, me, by charging up and down the fence line woofing and barking.

The crowd, any duffing of this magnitude always draws a crowd, consisted of the rest of the chickens and the ducks, who screamed and shouted and jumped up and down in excitement.

I kept hold of the hen. If I let go of her now, I’d have no chance of getting her again. I brought her up to my face to protect myself – this isn’t as cowardly as it sounds, using a female as a shield, as trust me nobody was going to mess with her, not even the geese – and stepped back.

It was carnage. Blindly I staggered through it and popped her into the broody-coop. I slammed the door. She went silent. I rushed back, scooped up the five babies and put them in with mum.

She went all mother hen and fussed over them, then settled down, quite happy, babies under her, a nice, new, safe, single-mother apartment around her, and looked out as if to say, I feel better now.

With the focus of the riot taken away, the rest of us shuffled our feet a bit then wandered off in different directions, hands in pockets, whistling. Only the goose remained, her hubby still off to one side while she screeched and strutted around the empty battlefield as though the whole thing had been orchestrated for her, and she wasn’t finished yet.

It’s true what they say, moving home is without doubt a stressful business.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Getting back to London

I've become very bad at updating my blog lately, mainly because I'm desperately trying to write this book and at the same time keep all the magazine, newspaper and radio work going, not to mention the farm!

It is a lot of fun and i wouldn't change it for the world, but it is hard going sometimes.

However, I did manage to get back to London for a sneaky weekend.

“Can we take a pig with us, not one of the big ones, just, you know, one of the small ones?” I said, standing in front of our bed strewn with clothes, a half full suitcase on the floor.


“How about Dex, can I take Dex?”

“Simon, shut up.”

Oh. In the twelve years since we left London to live on Exmoor, we’ve only been back together twice, both times for funerals, and the last one of those was seven years ago. Now, Debbie’s sister is getting married and we’re off to London.

I think I’m looking forward to it. I love my animals, but I haven’t had a single day off for eighteen months and I could do with a break. However I’m not sure I want to leave them. What if they forget me while I’m gone? Or I loose my position as leader, a tenuous state of affairs at the best of times? We’ve all read Animal Farm, what if the pigs revolt?

To keep control, I’m going to have to entrust the symbol of my office to another. The orchestral conductor has a baton, the judge a gavel, the train controller a whistle. I have a yellow bucket, and I shall pass it into the safe keeping of the one left in charge. That should cover it.

I rummage through the clothes on the bed for something of mine. I know what I want to wear. I’ve already picked my outfit. Black shoes, black trousers and a smart fitted shirt. Classic but dapper, with just a hint of cool dude.

I know what Debbie’s going to wear because she’s had the dress hanging up on the outside of the wardrobe for the past six months. It’s, er, long. Floor length. Kind of strappy, cut low front and back with muted colours of dark blue, rusty gold and light grey, and she looks beautiful in it.

After a week of solid work typing up the “How to,” and “What happens if,” manual list of instructions, I’m happy with the result. It’s always a worry of what to include and what to leave out. How in depth should I go without terrifying her of the possibilities? In the end I opt to include the chapter on, “What to do in case of a flood,” but leave out, “What to do in case of an attack by zombies,” figuring if the council don’t need to take precautions then neither do I. Besides, the pigs would probably eat them.

So that’s it, I’m off to party like it’s 1999. For a whole day and night, I’m going to be a human being, not the stressed out worry-wart dad to an odd crew of animals. It’s exciting. No welly boots, no mud, no screeching pigs desperate for dinner NOW! No driving around on a quad bike with rain pouring down my neck. No stampeding naughty horses. No chickens demanding attention. No goats to milk by hand. No killer geese. No stinky Dex. No flying head butts by the lambs. No aloof sheep.

No cats, no ducks, no great dane on the bed at night taking up all the room. No spending hours outside, no wood to cut for the fire to keep warm, no bread to make by hand. And no meat – away from home we eat vegetarian. Just human beings. Normal, everyday, human beings.

Mm, I wonder if I should lie when anyone I don’t know asks me what I do for a living? I could tell them I’m an estate agent! You’re right, maybe not. No, I’ll probably end up drunk in a corner slurring about how the General, a fifty stone pig, is my “Best friend in all the world.”

Yep, it’s time to go and embarrass the family.

And I promise to blog more.