Monday, September 26, 2005

Oven Ready

Originally uploaded by Chocolate Sandwich.
Suffering from the back to work drabs, we sought refuge at the caravan for the weekend. The dogs had been in the boot for the journey and I felt guilty about this. I could hear them whimpering, so I let them out as soon as we arrived on the site. I hadn’t noticed that a hen was happily pecking her way around a neighbouring caravan. One of my Jack Russells, Dotty, noticed the bird instantly and gave chase. I ambled after her – she was often in the habit of chasing rabbits for pleasure and no harm was ever done. When I caught up with Dot, in the neighbouring field, her face was full of feathers and her mouth was dripping with blood. The hen was groaning and in its death throes.

I must admit that I panicked – I have relatives in the country, but have never lived beyond walking distance of a cash machine. The hen was obviously from the neighbouring farm. Dot had thoughtfully chased it onto home ground before despatching it. I grabbed the dog and ran back to the caravan. Maude is a pragmatic woman – she grew up on a farm. ‘Take this carrier bag and get the hen’, she advised. ‘We’ll get rid of it and no-one will never know what happened to it.’

Our friend Esme had joined us and I sensed that she was rather disapproving of this plan. I weighed the options: cross Maude or upset Esme....

I was vaulting the fence back into the field (with carrier bag in hand) when I spotted the farmer’s wife crossing her field. She had her own dog for company and even a city boy knew that it was only a matter of seconds before the dog would catch the scent of the dying chicken and the game would be up. I hurriedly dumped the bag on the blind side of the fence and opted for confession.

I began with a jaunty ‘Hello!’ I got a cagey ‘Hi’ in response.

We established that the land was indeed hers and then, as I led her to the bird, I asked, in passing, ’Is this your hen?’

‘Well, it was…..’She stooped and lifted the dying bird and deftly rang its neck.

I explained the circumstances and offered to pay. She refused any money and showed great understanding in the cicumstances. The hen would do for Sunday lunch, she said, and added that ‘dogs will be dogs’. She left me to jump back over the fence and carry on my weekend flirtation with the countryside. She turned towards the farmhouse, the dead hen swinging from her hand and the dog at her heel. Halfway over the fence I was struck by an irrational city-dweller fear of an arseful of buckshot, but I made it back safely to Maude as the kettle whistled for tea.