Despite what Nell says below, there is no mistake. (Nor have I received a blow on the head!)
I have invited Nell along to do a monthly blog for me for 4 good reasons-
Over to you Anne…
Hi everyone; I’m thrilled that Jenny has asked me to do a regular (monthly) spot on her illustrious blog – though I can’t help thinking she has me confused with someone else … Case of mistaken identity notwithstanding, this is my opening shot and I will try my best not to get the sack on my first day.
Like most writers, I hope to develop a half-decent rep and gather a small following of readers who enjoy my efforts. I didn’t expect to become rich and famous overnight as soon as my first traditionally-published crime novel rolled hot from the presses (or whatever they do now, digitally), which was just as well. But neither did I expect my biggest claim to fame by far to be as guardian of a chicken … no, that isn’t a typo – I do mean chicken, feathers, clucks and all.
Truth be told, as well as a Norfolk Broad (my butt is slightly bigger than when we moved here twenty years ago), I have become something of a mother hen – being foster parent to a flighty young chicken is a very serious undertaking. And that is a sentence the construction of which I had no idea I’d ever entertain in my head, let alone type in black and white.
It was two years ago that our feathered friend came home to roost on our land. While I say ‘home’, that’s not entirely accurate, as Pavlova was never ours in the first place. After waving off the last of four sons into the wide blue yonder, why would we be so foolish as to acquire another beak to feed? Although in her favour, at least she doesn’t leave muddy rugby boots in the hall … not yet, anyway.
In case you were wondering, Pavlova is named not after the ballet dancer – her moves are good, but not that good – or the sweet meringue desert that rots your molars, but as a female version of Ivan Pavlov. Yes, the dog man. I decided against Ivana as that’s already been trumped. Sorry. Pavlova responds to classical conditioning by coming when she is called and/or when she hears the rustling of the bird seed bag. See, I knew the degree in psych would come in handy one day. She has also been known to descend from her perch-of-choice when she hears the back door or sees me waddle past her lair, ever-hopeful it’s time once more for the metaphorical nosebag. The cheeky chick even becomes quite vocal, telling me to get a move on if I am too slow for her liking – and she’s destroyed all the flowers in a window box on the kitchen sill, where she jumps up to scratch frantically in the soil and peck on the glass in frustration, if she judges my reaction times to be below par.
Pav simply appeared one day, foraging and clucking her stuff in amongst the mini forest we’ve planted at the bottom of our garden – a slightly more unusual presence than common or garden fairies, you have to agree – and for reasons as yet unknown, she decided to take us under her wing. Though a couple of near-neighbours kept chickens in the past, they moved away – one lot just before Pavlova decided to honour us with her presence. Surely they would have … erm … counted their chickens to make sure they were all present and correct, before giving the ‘wagons ho’ command to the removals van? Leaving a chook behind to fend for herself is a henous (snigger) offence – a clear dereliction of duty of care of a poor pullet.
At first, I didn’t feed her, thinking she would find her way back home and that to throw her the odd morsel might encourage her to linger – and be considered tantamount to committing avianap. Mandatory fines for that sort of thing are not chicken feed, I’ve heard.
But then the few shreds of maternal instinct I have acquired over the years kicked in and I started to worry she would not be able to find sufficient sustenance around the garden, becoming increasingly peckish, so to speak. Although The Hungry Hen might work as a catchy name for a pub, gastro or otherwise, I didn’t want to be responsible for the real McCoy. And so, I hit the Internet to see what chickens like to eat – more or less anything, it seems – and settled upon a mix of wild bird seed, meal worms and oats. Chick peas are off the menu, lest their consumption could in any way be construed as cannibalistic. I tried her on cucumber, broccoli florets and yogurt (that’s what contributors to the site said!) but although the latter disappeared in its entirety, I harbour grave suspicions it was not Pavlova who partook of that particular delicacy. She suffers from a dearth of lips to smack, has a minute, pointy tongue and the bowl was licked clean. Besides, I’ve watched her drink water from her specially-designated receptacle and it would take a month of Sundays for her to get through the contents of even a small yogurt pot.
Feeding time brings with it an interesting demonstration of the term ‘pecking order’. Naturally, Pavlova has first peckings and woe betide any man or beast who tries to interfere before she’s had her fill. Watching her with a beady eye will be one very overweight pigeon, with a radar system second to none – the minute it so much as blips, he/she swoops down to take up residence on a small wall, adjacent to the feeding bowl. Then come the Necklace Boys – two grey doves with identical black half-circles around the back of their necks. Their mother has taught them far better manners than those displayed by the pigeon, hovering politely as they do – pigeon frequently tries his luck, trying to muscle in before Pav gives the ‘I’m done, knock yourselves out’ signal. Blackbirds rarely join in the feeding frenzy – I have no idea why – but tits, sparrows and robins take advantage of their small size to zip in and claim any stray grain, no matter which bigger bird has their beak in the trough at the time.
Initially, our poultry pal nested in the middle of a large shrub quite near to the house. I have no idea what it is (my fingers are pink, not green,) except it is an evergreen and sprouts small, delicate white flowers during late spring. Just why she vacated is unclear, but could have had something to do with my husband’s robust pruning thereof, or the boisterous blackbirds that also seem to favour the shrub’s dense foliage and whose late-night parties are not neighbour-friendly. Incensed, she moved lock, stock and barrel – easy on the barrel – to take up residence high in a holly tree, even nearer to the house. The penthouse suite – or perhaps henhouse suite in her case. Ascent is via a pile of handily-placed boulders, while she regally makes her descent through branches onto an ivy-covered fence, which is kind to her feet/paws/whatever they are called. (That reminds me, I must get her some moisturiser for those claws – she is a very attractive redhead, but looks old before her time because she lacks a regular beauty regime, in particular the pedicure variety). A mere hop, skip and a jump down from the fence and grubs up, folks.
Pavlova is a rather fickle fowl because she disappears every now and again to nest elsewhere in the garden, selecting a new des res each time – but never the bijou mini coop I bought for her at great expense at the onset of her first winter with us. We hardly ever find her or the well-concealed eggs during these times, so this is a rather one-sided arrangement. When she feels like it, she strut-runs up the garden, expecting her loyal servant to immediately come up with the goods chow-wise and welcome her back with open wings. She ducks (sorry, Pav) any polite enquiries as to where she’s been – well, I do worry about her and where she is and for all I know, she’s flown off on a dirty beakend, throwing herself at the mercy of randy cockerels up to no good. Once her food bowl is replenished by the hired help, she sticks her beak in the air to signal that I am dismissed and treats me with utter disdain until I get the message and slope off, back to the below-stairs scullery.
Of course, I recognise I am behaving like, well, a mother hen – perhaps I should ditch the crime novels and write Chick-Lit instead?
Until the day dawns that I hop genres, I should probably flog the current masterpiece, Hostile Witness:
It can be found at http://mybook.to/hostilewitness
I can be found Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/NellPetersAuthor
Or on Twitter as @paegon
Thanks hun- see you next month!