Chooks Away!


agriculture animal baby beak
Photo by Achim Bongard on

Mock me if you will, but this household has recently acquired six chickens as a part of our continued strive to have less impact on the planet, and yes, whip up an omelette when we’ve all had an oeuf of Brexit (gosh I am so funny). Yes, yes, I know. If the French and English fishermen move onto less middle-class catches than scallops to fall out over, Operation Stack becomes Operation Car Park because the ports are blocked and the NHS has finally collapsed the death knell being that drugs that are not manufactured in this country are not able to come into this country, then six chickens are not going to save me or anyone else.

In the short time that we have had them I have noticed how incredibly thick chickens are. They have not a thought in their head. Yesterday they escaped from their capacious living area for doing whatever it is that chickens do, and had made their way up to the lawn, which is at the top of our garden. And when I say the top of our garden, we live on a hill and the lawn is not only the only flat portion of our garden, it is higher up than the roof of our house with steps for humans to reach it. The lawn is a substantial work of engineering, much adored by Man of the House, and lovingly re-seeded two weeks ago.  I made my way up to shoo them back down to their area. Five of the six went with little trouble. One of them decided to break free from the group and run off in completely the opposite direction. I was around thirty feet from her when she decided to launch herself from the top of the lawn. She flapped her wings as she cannoned over the hedge (planted specifically to stop a child doing something similar) and mid-air it became apparent that her flight feathers on one side had been clipped. She banked left and disappeared from view. I heard a thud, which I presumed was her ricocheting off the chicken coop. I rushed back down the garden expecting that my quandary over what to cook for dinner was now solved. I found her having rejoined the group without a care in the world. A perfect demonstration as to why chickens are the descendants of dinosaurs. They are made of stern, uncomplicated stuff and a big bang was nothing to them.

In addition to half a dozen mini velociraptors trashing the lawn, like lots of people who adore Sir David Attenborough and wonder if he is the only person in a position of authority with an ounce of sense, I have also been on a mission to eradicate our house of plastic. This is a much easier task to say than it is to do isn’t it? I have a veg box because they don’t wrap cucumbers and broccoli in plastic (who the hell thought of that cretinous idea? They should join Mr Gove and have their feet roasted on an open fire as suggested by a fellow Twitter user for the fronted adverbial crap), I have switched to beeswax wraps ( are excellent – no I don’t get any money for suggesting them, they have no idea who I am), and bars of shampoo and soap in the bathroom which cause endless amounts of confusion. As of this morning I think that Man of the House is washing his body with hair conditioner, his hair with a body bar and I don’t want to even think about what he’s doing with the bar of shampoo. I also buy eco-friendly washing products that are made in eco-friendly factories, have less impact on aquatic life and are packaged in recycled plastic. I have also been trying not to buy palm oil which is even less easy because the bloody stuff is in everything. And I have started ordering milk from the milkman again.

Except, according to news this week, the single biggest cause of pollution in the world is a kind of fart. And you would be entirely forgiven for thinking it might be President Fart, but it’s not, that would be fake news; it’s cow farts. And by buying milk, in addition to (as one of my vegan friends has previously horrified me) I am not only supporting young male calves being shot at birth and their mothers being permanently pregnant, I am also contributing to cow farts. As I am by eating beef. And I am not a big beef eater. In case you missed it, the upshot of that if we carry on we’ve got about twelve years until we’re all completely buggered. So just enough time for the children of those us of my generation to be reaching adulthood and being left with a bigger mess than the one their grandparents and the current government are intent on leaving them with Brexit. Great.

We are British, so let us not be defeated by this news. We must press on, and press on we shall. This weekend, I am going to avail myself of all of the milk alternatives available to a person at my local supermarket. Such is the wealth and privilege of the country I live in. And me, Man of the House and the Childerbeasts are going to do a blind tasting. I may take photos of some of the more disgusted expressions for my own amusement. Then we are going to see which one we like the best. And we are going to attempt to make the switch.

I am not going to make any rash promises. We are not going to become vegan overnight and start cycling everywhere. However, I am going to attempt to demonstrate to my children that we should all attempt to be what I believe Mahatma Gandhi actually said which was “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change….We need not wait to see what others do.” If we don’t do something, and twelve years really means now, we the Europeans won’t be able to bicker over Brexit, the Americans will not be able to tittle-tattle over Trump and the Russians will not be around to visit Salisbury in the snow or otherwise. Smaller, feathery and not very scary this time, but after sixty six million years, dinosaurs will once again rule the Earth. So much for homo sapiens, sapiens – wise, wise man.



Charm School

sea ocean fish barracuda
Photo by Peter Simmons on


This September, I, along with my parental cohort had the delight of waving our offspring off to secondary school. Man of the House and I have received, as I am sure that you have, a lot of helpful hints and tips from school and other parents who have already been through this toe-curling experience, as to how to make it less excruciating for all concerned. I have now collected together this wisdom, reflected on it and put it to one side.  Here is my own helpful guide.
For Pupils

1.  Before you start at school you must ignore your parent(s) when they tell you that secondary school will be different to primary school. It was about a million years ago that they were at school – as if they have a clue what it’s like. Never forget that they are not young enough to know everything.
2.  Let them sort out all of the uniform etc. Show no interest whatsoever in what you are expected to attend school wearing, but simply expect it to magic itself all in the correct size, washed, ironed and labelled into your wardrobe and/or sports bag ready for you on your first day.
3.  Even though they have had to re-mortgage the house to purchase all of the new uniform a) grow out of it as quickly as possible and b) come home in the first week with exciting news of an expensive field trip.
4.  On your first day, and really for the first few weeks until you have got your parents into the new routine, you should ignore your alarm clock. Or don’t even bother to set it. Do not so much as flutter one eyelid until a parent enters your room with a cup of tea.
5.  Between the hours of 6am to 8am and 5pm to 8pm speak only in grunts. If anyone over the age of eighteen, except for a teacher, attempts to engage you in conversation, sigh exasperatedly and reach for your phone. If you do speak, remember to do so in the manner of a tweenage television presenter or DJ who are just so cool that they can barely be bothered to speak, and certainly not properly.
6.  It is anything but cool to use the word ‘cool.’
7.  Lose your pencil case/Biology book/school tie at the most inconvenient time possible, preferably just as you are about to leave the house in the morning. Be adamant and vocal about where you last saw it, claim that you have searched for it several times to no avail, and finally accuse someone else (preferably a sibling, if available) of moving it. Involve the entire family in the search, including the dog. Be incredibly ungrateful when someone else finds it exactly where you said it was not.
8.  Let your fingerprint loose on Parentpay. Everyone knows it’s not real money.
9.  After years of your parents trying to make sure you have a balanced diet, now is the time to get your own back. Have that daily Danish pastry or bacon sandwich at break, together with chips at lunch. Who wants to be as old as your parents anyway?  It’s a miracle they’ve lived this long.
10.  Everyone knows that homework is optional and should always be left until the last minute. It is also essential that you spend more time arguing with your parents about doing the homework than it actually takes to do it. Repeat daily for seven years.
11.  Swear as much as possible, even in front of younger children and especially when it is entirely unnecessary. But not in front of your teachers.
12.  Attitude. Get some. Get lots. But just for your parents. If you are chastised by your parent about your poor attitude you must go “oooooohhhh” as if to say “oh and now I’m really scared” to show how grown up you are.
13.  Should anyone related to you show you any sign of affection in front of anyone you know, die of embarrassment. If their hand so much as gets within ten centimetres of your person, flinch and look at them as if they had tried to beat you with a shitty stick.
14.  Similarly if they mention antiquated phrases like “first year” and “sixth form”. What the hell is sixth form?
15.  Fall asleep on the sofa in the evening or at the weekend. Your parents will forgive you anything, absolutely anything in the entire world, when they see you curled up and fast asleep.

For Parents

You know you thought that you would have more time on your hands, more money in your purse, more food in your fridge and you’d call a halt on mid-week drinking? Roasted.