Thinking of something to do for our Global Service Days really filled me with that sense of having to put something else on my list of things to do! But it was this that prompted me into thinking about why I felt this; after all it is about extending my Ango commitment into the world at large. I have constraints against regular social contributions, like at our local hospice where I would like to help out, but which would be unfair considering my unpredictable schedules. So I started thinking smaller and closer to home.
I often walk around our neighborhood which runs along the coastline of Plymouth
Sound and often meet people from my street also walking to get some air or to
give their dogs a run out. I often say hello in passing and from these many chance
encounters I have spent a lot of time just listening to their stories and problems.
My idea to give away eggs is a homespun habit that developed since I started
keeping chickens about a year ago. This was around the time some friends were
moving house and asked me to take in two of their chickens. I wasn’t keen but as I
had a spare bit of unused vegetable patch (from another home project laid to waste
by lack of time) I reconsidered that it would encourage me to spend more ‘green
time’ outside, appreciating a connection with nature available at the top of my
garden. So I ordered a coup and built an enclosing run.
The chickens were delivered and after a couple of weeks were in the routine
of laying. By coincidence during this time a new law banning battery farming of
chickens came into force and thousands of battery hens suddenly became illegal and
faced being slaughtered. Through a charity (British Hen Welfare Trust) that relocates
these hens, I found myself with two more!
I found that they did need to be looked after, but I enjoyed doing the morning and
evening rounds, sitting looking at the sunset scenery, appreciating the trees and
night sky and generally reconnecting with this outside, non-electronic and peaceful
nature. I was hooked so much that I even cleared out a shed that had been my
children’s playhouse and turned it into a sitting space. I could now go up and let
the chickens out while I did my morning and sometimes evening sits. To boot these
chickens would scratch dirt and eat goodness knows what from the ground and
produce something oval, beige but filled with a golden yellow bounty.
With four chickens I found that we were receiving more eggs than my family could
eat, so we started giving them to friends. It wasn’t until a colleague of my wife
suddenly presented us with a most amazing homemade Mauritian curry that I
realised how these eggs were being appreciated! I used to give the large double-
yolkers to my next door neighbour, who was suffering with skin cancer, writing
his name on each one! (He’s a big guy so he needs them). The kind of simple
appreciation of eggs surprised me as they are quite plain things really. I really
felt that something was being touched on, a kind of old ways thing, when these
exchanges were of kindness and friendship, a harking back to more rural times. I
gave about two dozen eggs to a Women’s Institute Cake bake for another friend and
then thought that these chickens were doing more than just laying eggs!
So now I am putting these two threads together, and extending the goodwill that
giving eggs creates, with the meetings I have with people on my walks. The tales
I hear of are sometimes a cry of despair: of (grown) children who can’t get jobs;
grandchildren damaging their lives on drugs; and the incomprehensible (to them)
way that young couples in their families treat each other.
I have given away three boxes of eggs so far this week and the effect of giving and of
just listening is visible on the faces when we part.
‘A problem shared is a problem halved’.
What strikes me is how deeply this senior generation understands the pressures and
difficulties that life now throws at us, but feel so powerless when things go wrong for
their loved ones. Chatting with older people has helped me reconnect to a society I
have lost touch with since the death of my own parents over the last fifteen years.
It has been a lovely experience for me to reconnect with a generation whose values
and beliefs we are going to miss in the future.
My chickens have helped me truly connect in so many ways and they have shown me
how everything is interconnected in some of the most surprising ways!
I hope to keep all this going but the trouble is my wife seems to have picked up on
this idea and is handing out my eggs (!!) to fellow (younger) students on her course,
who are obviously in need of better nutrition!
I think I may need to get more chickens!