A dairy dis­pute re­sults in a fowl ac­qui­si­tion in a car parkÉ

Woman's Weekly (UK) - - Hello! -

The trou­ble with pok­ing your nose into other peo­ple’s ro­man­tic af­fairs is that ev­ery­day life so of­ten gets in the way. This week, for in­stance, I’ll bet you’ve tuned in for the lat­est news about Clare and Ben, my lovely young col­leagues at the char­ity shop? Has Clare de­cided to throw in her lot with the mys­te­ri­ous man she met at a wed­ding, and who has been tex­ting her re­lent­lessly (which is, it seems, the mod­ern way when it comes to ro­mance). Has Ben de­cided to take up a once-in-a-life­time bar­gain of­fer with the young lady he met at Waitrose?

I was hon­estly go­ing to men­tion all this, but in­stead we had a bit of an

‘empty cup­boards’ cri­sis at home, and so you join us in­stead in Tesco, where we are in the dairy aisle and ar­gu­ing about yo­gurt.

We were just be­gin­ning to ar­gue about clot­ted cream, too, when a dis­em­bod­ied, but oddly fa­mil­iar voice came drift­ing over from the di­rec­tion of the fish counter. ‘Hey, you two!’ it said. ‘Fancy a cou­ple of chick­ens?’

‘That sounds like Frank,’ said Mr Dear, who is some­thing of an author­ity on dis­em­bod­ied voices, as Frank, a friend who runs a farm, duly emerged from be­hind a dis­play.

Farmers are, in my ex­pe­ri­ence, large peo­ple with per­son­al­i­ties to match. Frank, by con­trast, is a large per­son­al­ity housed in the sort of small frame that can eas­ily dis­ap­pear be­hind su­per­mar­ket dis­plays.

‘Both hens,’ he said. ‘They’re not very pretty, but they’ll be good lay­ers.’

It is a well-known fact that men can think of only one thing at a time, and Mr Dear’s great brain was still grap­pling with the great yo­gurt con­tro­versy – Blue­berry vs Greek-Style. ‘Well,’ he said. ‘Erm…’

‘We’ll take them,’ I said. ‘Come on, love. The hen­house needs some young­sters. You said as much the other day.’

‘You’ll like these, Tom,’ said Frank. ‘They’re cream leg­bars – very friendly, and they lay lovely blue eggs.’

‘Well…’ said Mr Dear. He’s not a man who, when of­fered a cou­ple of chick­ens in the dairy prod­ucts aisle, will act on im­pulse. ‘We’ve got buff Or­p­ing­tons.’

It’s fair to say that Mr D is de­voted to buff Or­p­ing­tons. It dates back to the day we vis­ited a rare-breeds farm, and a buff Or­p­ing­ton cock­erel wad­dled over to in­tro­duce him­self. He re­sem­bled a re­tired colonel who had long ago lost the eter­nal strug­gle be­tween stom­ach and waist­band, who’d just en­joyed a spot of lunch and who was now look­ing for a com­pan­ion who might en­joy lis­ten­ing to his favourite sto­ries. Mr D was that com­pan­ion.

It was while he was lost in thoughts of buff Or­p­ing­tons, re­tired colonels and lunch that Frank and I sealed the deal.

‘No charge,’ he said. ‘They were go­ing to my brother-in-law, but my sis­ter found out and put her foot down. She’s never been one for live­stock, which is odd in a farmer’s daugh­ter, wouldn’t you say?’ ‘Fine,’ I said. ‘When shall we pick up?’ ‘I’ve got them in the back of my car,’ said Frank. ‘In a card­board box.’

And so, in the car park at Tesco, two hens were en­trusted to our safe­keep­ing..

This was, I’m afraid, just the be­gin­ning of their prob­lems.

I hadn’t re­alised this be­fore, but snob­bery runs very deep in the chicken world. The new ar­rivals were quickly trans­ferred to our mod­est but com­fort­able chicken en­clo­sure, where­upon the ex­ist­ing in­hab­i­tants stood snootily to one side and looked down their beaks with ex­pres­sions of dis­dain.

Young cream leg­bars are not pretty birds, and a sort of chicken stand-off took place. Faced with the distinct lack of wel­come, the new­com­ers re­treated to the far cor­ner of the fenc­ing and looked at their neigh­bours as if they were re­hears­ing for the parts of Barry and Yvonne, the Hi-de-Hi! dancers who thought they were the cocks of the walk at Maplins.

To put the ex­ist­ing res­i­dents in a bet­ter mood, we put some corn down. They went at it like mem­bers of a rugby scrum who’d just been asked if any­body had seen a dropped 50 pound note.

‘The oth­ers will soon learn,’ said Mr Dear. He scat­tered some corn in front of the leg­bars, who did not look im­pressed. ‘What are they wait­ing for?’ said Mr D. ‘Per­haps they’ve al­ready had lunch?’ ‘Yes. they prob­a­bly ha… Oh, don’t be so daft. Chick­ens don’t think like that.’

By this time, the buff Or­p­ing­tons were mak­ing their way over to get at this newly scat­tered fresh sup­ply of corn. The leg­bars, quickly see­ing which way the wind was blow­ing, joined in the fray.

It was in this undig­ni­fied scram­ble that some­body – no names, no pack drill – pecked Mr Dear on the an­kle.

‘Some­times,’ he said rue­fully, ‘I won­der whether it wouldn’t be eas­ier just to get our eggs from the su­per­mar­ket like ev­ery­body else does.’

‘It’s fair to say that Mr D is de­voted to buff Or­p­ing­tons’

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