Life

Nuala McCann: The chickens in our yard shall be called Brunhilde and Ethelred

Our son makes me laugh. The laughter is what keeps us going about here. That and the pavlova, the cherry buns, the wheaten bread and the fifteens...

My friend tells me how the fox would even tunnel to get at the hens

WHEN all this is over, says our son, there’ll be a bunch of us fellas looking like hillbillies with our mullet hair flowing in the wind. We’ll be on a stampede to the barber’s, beating down the door and shouting “Let us in, let us in.”

He makes me laugh. The laughter is what keeps us going about here. That and the pavlova, the cherry buns, the wheaten bread and the fifteens... the kindness of family, friends and strangers.

I have given up on the video conferencing. On Zoom calls at 8am, having been on shift from 6am, I prefer not to share my not-quite-just-out-of-bed look – I sit on the bed in my jammies, my hair an exclamation mark and I’m ripening nicely under the oxters.

No way, no video, it’s audio only about here. I post a picture of me before all this carry on instead. It is a picture that is a tribute to the artistry of the hairdresser.

In fact, I am penning love letters to my hairdresser and my eyebrow wizard and my chief leg waxer and all the other wondrous people who keep me looking half normal.

In my dreams, I’m silvering on top beautifully like Christine Lagarde of the International Monetary Fund... she’s probably tearing her hair out at this stage. But in truth, I’m more of a Worzel Gummidge... the hair grows out, rather than down. That was all good in the days of yore when you could get away with the Crystal Tips vibe but alas, no longer.

Strange how, even in the middle of a pandemic, you want to look decent. Strange how it is the kindnesses that count, like the half dozen eggs from happy hens left on the doorstep by my friend. Hello, Uncle John, I don’t know you but I have fairly enjoyed your hens’ eggs.

These hens lay individual eggs... some large, some small, some speckled and some have even a little piece of a sunny sky in the blue of them. The supermarket eggs don’t have a look in.

When I crack these happy hens’ eggs open, the yolk is rich and golden yellow from hens that have scratched long and hard in the freedom of a yard.

These are some eggs. My friend tells me that the hens give an egg each day, except when they’re clocking and then the hens go off and there might be a clutch. I never heard of clocking but I think it means the hens are thinking of baby chicks.

We stand at a social distance as my friend delivers the eggs and she tells me that the country foxes have no fear in them at all these days and they’ll be out on the road in broad daylight looking at you as if to say; “So, what are you gonna do?”

I imagine they’re like extras from A Clockwork Orange, all veiled threat and dare you glance sideways.

She tells me how the fox would even tunnel to get at the hens which is why you need chicken wire dug in deep to protect them and, if the fox gets in and you have six hens, he’ll kill all six of them even if he only takes one away.

“Ba****d!” shrieks my mother when I share the tale of the murderous fox over the phone.

She has never said a bad word in her life, unlike me. I’m with her in sentiment as regards Monseiur Fox. Still, this pandemic is clearly getting to her.

I liked city foxes up until all that. I caught a fleeting flash of red and white late one night as I was leaving a friend home and thought how beautiful and how magical to glimpse a wild fox in the city. Now, like the magpies, I want them dead. Give me a gun.

I haven’t learned a foreign language, taken up the piano or, indeed, learned to paint with Bob Ross in this hiatus of a life.

But I have a few plans that might come to something when we open the garden gate for the first time in many weeks and step out into a brave new world.

In the post-pandemic world, I would like to rescue two battery hens and give them a good life out our back.

They shall be called Brunhilde and Ethelred and we shall shield them from the ba****d foxes... because you have to dream, don’t you?

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