Along with the critters Boo and Gupta have a poly tunnel in which they grow a variety of vegetables and fruit. One of the fruits they grow is raspberry. I like raspberries but so do the blackbirds and they seem to have an uncanny knack of scoffing all the ripe raspberries 5 minutes before I arrive to harvest them. There are more raspberries growing outside the tunnel but the story is the same. All the ripe fruit gets eaten before I get to them.
There is also a hedgerow that grows along two of the boundaries here and a great many blackberry bushes grow here. I’m fond of blackberries too and harvesting them brings back a great many good memories of my boyhood when my brothers and I would walk up to Wimbledon Common and fill bags with blackberries that my mum would add to a variety of pies she made. We would have blackberry pies and my personal favourite, apple and blackberry pie. My mum made the best pastry ever and the pies were mouth wateringly good. The pies would be served with custard or ice cream and we would argue over who got the custard skin! It was great. So yesterday evening I took a wander round collecting any raspberries and blackberries that I could find so they could go in freezer to be turned into pies at some later time. As I walked along the narrow lane that runs down one side of the smallholding, I noticed a chicken come out of the hedgerow, walk across the road and go into the field opposite.
“Oh look” I thought. “A chicken. I wonder where’s he’s off too.”
Another chicken appeared, crossed the road and went into the neighbours field. It was closely followed by several others.
“Oh dear” I thought again. “I wonder who they belong to as it’s going to be dark soon and the foxes will have them.”
Then the penny dropped.
“Oh fuck.” I thought. (Looking after animals is very thought provoking.) “They’re Boos!”
By this time 11 or 12 chickens had crossed the road into a neighbouring field. They had found a gap in the fence and decided to make a run for it.
“What is this? Bloody ‘Chicken Run’? Where’s Mel Gibson?”
Acting with uncharacteristic speed, I grabbed a nearby rock, found the gap and plugged it. Then I vaulted over a gate into the field the chickens were in and proceeded to round them up. Have you ever tried to round up chickens? It’s well nigh impossible on your own. They are right bolshie bastards.
I ran around the field trying to get them back across the road but they just scattered to all points of the compass plus some more. I had no alternative. I had to get John the talkative 73 year old neighbour involved. I banged on his door, told him the story and told to hurry as it would be dark soon. As he put his wellies on he was chatting away 19 to the dozen.
“Yow know what Dick? This happened to me a few years back. It were 1963 and I were cutting the grass on a caravan park I were staying at. Or were it 1964? It might even have been 1962 but no matter. I were cutting grass in this caravan park I were staying at in Newport. That’s Newport in Cornwall, not Newport in Wales. Or is it in Devon? Yow know what Dick, I don’t know which county it’s in but never mind, it weren’t the one in Wales. Or were it? So these chickens escaped from a neighbouring farm into the caravan park I were staying at. I used to cut the grass there as a favour to the owner who gave me a discount for cutting the grass. It were 1963. I’m certain of it. Anyhow…….”
“Mate. Will you hurry up and put your boots on. I’ll meet you up there.”
Whereupon I rushed off despite the raging headache that I had suddenly developed.
“Yow know what Dick? This happened to me once before. It were in 1963. I were cutting the grass at the caravan park I were staying at. By the time we had sorted ourselves out it were getting dark so I fired up the old 8 wheeler they kept in a barn. It were an old Foden unit. Built in 1951 if I remember correctly. Anyway, I turned on the headlight and do you know what? Them old headlights lit up the whole caravan site. I’d been cutting the grass there just before this happened and you could see where I had cut……….”
“Mate. Can you get to the point please? It’s getting dark and we’ve only recaptured 8 chickens.”
“Ar.” said John. “That’s my point. I’ll go and get my old Kubota tractor and light up the field. I got that tractor in 1994 and I repaired everything on it. It’s better than new now…..”
So off John went to get his better than new tractor while I enjoyed the peace and quiet and tried to stop my ears bleeding.
Soon John arrived on his Kubota tractor and lit up the field with it’s headlights.
“Yow know what Dick? This tractor has the best head lights ever. I put extra lights on, a bigger battery, sonic boom headlights. You can’t get them sonic boom lights anymore. Them went out of business in 1913 but I got hold of some of them lights. I put vapourless hayday quilt bulbs in. Thems full of arsenic yow know. Or is it cyanide? Anyway, yow have to be right careful with them. Look at that! Them lights could light up the moon from here. Well, they could if it weren’t a bit cloudy and the moon weren’t so far away……”
Eventually, after much cursing and threatening to blow the bastards away with the shotgun, we managed to get all the chickens gathered up and put away.
“Yow know what Dick? This happened to me years ago. I were cutting the grass at this caravan site I were staying at in 1963…..”
I invited John in for a cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit. I was grateful for all his help. He’s a lovely, helpful bloke who just happens to rabbit a lot. I couldn’t hear a word he was saying as my ears were stuffed with cotton wool in an effort to stem the flow of blood. He didn’t seem to notice, or care. He was quite happy to tell me tales of 1951 Foden 8 wheelers, mowing grass and Kubota tractors and I was happy for him to tell them.
Have a great day.
More Dick soon.