Martin Gurdon has a fondness for an ancient jacket when on chicken duties
It’s a garment that really should have been binned years ago
We call it ‘the tent,’ and it’s a garment that really should have been binned years ago. This is the jacket I use when dealing with the chickens, and it must be about 34 years old.
It started life as one of those hefty, weather resistant uber-outdoor coats, with deep pockets into which cold hands can be thrust and the sort of hood that would make an excellent tent for an elf.
My dad bought this dark green garment when he lived on a houseboat on the River Thames in the mid 1980s. It certainly kept him warm on winter mornings as he shifted icy Calor gas bottles.
When I came to stay I would often borrow it. The thing was about eight years old when I borrowed it again and somehow didn’t give it back. In the near quarter century since, both the tent and I have aged, but it is difficult to say which is the worse for wear.
The bottom of one of the jacket pockets has completely vanished and its exterior fabric has grown thin and porous, allowing great tufts of white lining to emerge from the ever-increasing number of holes. From a distance I look like a stuffed toy that’s been seriously mauled by a large dog.
The tent is no longer entirely waterproof. Rain now finds its way through gaps in the lining and down the back of my neck, thanks to a dearth of pop fasteners to hold the hood in place. If I brush against garden bushes on my way to clean out the hens, little bits of white lining are left to flutter on leafless branches. My wife says it’s easy to see where I’ve been in the garden because I leave a fluffy trail behind.
Rationally, I should have replaced the tent with another old jacket a decade ago, but I’ve developed a rather irrational fondness for this hideous object. When the sleeves drop off and the lining finally shreds it will have to go but, although my wife doesn’t entirely agree, I don’t think we’ve quite reached that point yet.
I was wearing the tent as I went to inspect the damage caused by recent high winds. Gales have a habit of blowing down our fence panels, which would allow our free-range hens to escape, but this time fence and fowl stayed in place. However, the chicken house that once contained Wonky the bantam, and which I’d planed to use again, was lying on its back, roof torn from its hinges and smashed. It might be fixable, but if not the thing is only good for firewood.
The gale also brought down the dovecote in an area where our big hens often like to forage. Fortunately they were in bed at the time, or there might have been a chicken tragedy.
I’m pleased to say the recently re-built large chicken run where they roost survived unscathed.