Thursday, January 23, 2014

Dinner will be late tonight...

...I’m still plucking the chicken. 

As one does in the stodgy depths of January, I have been daydreaming. Perhaps 2014 should be the year when I attempt one new creative activity each week.... re-upholster an old armchair, make fridge magnets out of beach pebbles or, at the very least, cook a new recipe.

Plucking and gutting a chicken was not quite on my list (although it had crossed my mind). We do, after all, have a couple of spare roosters. I know a man who will willingly come and despatch any unwanted fowl. I’m sure he would have shown me the ropes, if the slinky red fox hadn't got there first! 

From my studio yesterday I heard a disturbing level of clucking and squawking at dusk. I raced out to the hen house, just as said fox slipped covertly from the scene. I was lucky. He had only killed one cockerel. Head dismembered, lustrous sheen drained from its limp feathers; I was boldly determined that the fox wasn’t going to have the reward of eating this one. 

So, my first creative challenge was thrust upon me. 

It’s a well known fact that birds are much easier to pluck while still warm. I got that done  swiftly, before dinner. Which left me the evening to do some research on crop removal, neck severing, 'powerflush lung removers', bile and the fascinating contents of gizzards. 

My rooster could hang until the morning and I could tuck into bed reading masterly advice from Elizabeth David on simmering tough old birds.

Strange how a good night’s sleep often clears the mind. There’s no way I can face dealing with that torpid corpse... the fox could have been carrying a deadly disease. The local butcher shook his head gravely at the very suggestion of coq-au-vin and what’s more the family have all flatly refused to have anything to do with the bird. I would have been dining alone on soup for weeks. 

So, I’m going to shove him in the compost heap and attempt some genteel upholstery this weekend instead.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Fair weather gardener?

What a joy it is, in summer, to linger on the way to the vegetable patch; enjoying the beckoning fragrance of a new flower. To follow the meandering path of a passing butterfly. To pick a rainbow of produce and set a brimming basket down on the kitchen table.

A couple of years ago I made a promise to myself to grow more winter vegetables. Now, head bent against the wind and rain, light failing and mud clinging to my fork I’m beginning to question the pleasure of playing tug-of-war with an obstinate parsnip. 

But at least when I resort to the allure of nice, clean, supermarket vegetables, I do spare a grateful thought for those who have toiled on my behalf.

Friday, January 10, 2014


OK, so no more excuses. The kids are back at school, I've tidied my studio, scrubbed my palette, laid out my paint tubes in colour order, sorted my brushes, ordered more paper....  re-sorted my brushes.

The sun is dazzling this morning, the birds are rejoicing and I've just picked my first snowdrops. 
Let the year begin!