Tuesday 14 October 2014

The unflappable chicken

An extract from Pecky's portfolio (note the loomband)
Life in the Button household very much revolves around chickens, either because Betty is giving Pecky a cuddle, or Tom is trying to balance Ethel on a rake, or because they are breaking my leg etc.  For the last week or so, however, things have moved to a whole new level. Tom came back from school the other day mumbling something about having to take a chicken into school for a calendar shoot.

I asked him what he was talking about, but he was a bit vague.  'Cathy [fellow school parent] said something about needing a prop for a photoshoot. She asked if Pecky might be available.'

After asking around, I discovered that Cathy's photographer partner was putting together a calendar with themed monthly photos as a fundraiser for the school. April involves a live chicken, for reasons Tom wasn't able to pass on.

'Apparently there's ninjas as well. but I don't know what month they're for,' said Tom. 'How does Cathy know about Pecky anyway?'

I told him that there were about three hundred photos of Betty and Pecky on Facebook, as he would know, if he ever felt like lifting his self-imposed ban on all forms of social media,

I thought no more about Pecky and the photoshoot - consigning it to that black hole part of my brain involving anything chicken related - until we got a call from my friend Sandra.

Apparently Cathy and Sandra had had a chat that morning, and conversation had inevitably turned to Pecky.  Sandra was phoning us to find out from Tom what time Pecky might be available to come into school on Monday.

Sandra had become involved in the discussion due to the fact that her son Owen had been selected to hold Pecky for the photoshoot.  Owen enjoys holding Pecky almost as much as Betty does. He once held our massive leg-breaking cockerel upside down by the feet, which is pretty impressive for a seven year old. Tom has been going on about it for months.

On the day of the photoshoot, and I was woken up by a message from Sandra: 'It's Pecky's big day - hope she's ready!'  Poor Betty had a bug, but with her head stuck in a sick bucket, gave careful instructions to Tom on how Pecky should be transported to the school and treated during the shoot.  'Only Owen is allowed to hold my Pecky,' she reminded Tom. It was not a relaxing start to the day.

After half an hour of increasingly desperate hunting, Tom found a soggy collapsed crisp box for transporting the chicken. I helped him tape it together (while Betty told me that she wanted to be featured in April, and didn't want to dress as Guy Fawkes for November) and off Tom went to the chicken house, while Dolly waited in the car with an inscrutable expression on her face.

Just then I got an urgent text from Cathy telling me the photoshoot had been postponed due to the bad weather. I yelled to Tom down the driveway: 'NO PECKY', and apparently he got back in the car to a barrage of questions from Dolly about why the chicken was supposed to be coming to school anyway, why her chicken Ethel wasn't involved, and whether Pecky would be coming home on the school bus.  But despite the family flapping all around her, Pecky has remained unflustered throughout this whole episode.  We all have a lot to learn from that chicken.  

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Quiet kitchen

Coleslaw was quite a big part of my upbringing. Admittedly though, it wasn’t until I became a little more mature, that I began to really appreciate the raw shredded cabbage and onion combo that my mum had been producing throughout my childhood.

In fact, I remember many occasions where I would reject much of her laboured over home-cooking, and instead demand a frozen pizza and a tin of processed peas.

Children can be a bit blind to culinary efforts, and I now know only too well what a thankless task it is cooking for them. There are few things more annoying than putting your heart and soul into a meal only to have your children announce they don’t like it before they’ve even reached the kitchen.

Although I loved my mum’s pizzas, and her fry-ups, and her roasts (her ‘white gravy’ was famous), I didn’t fully appreciate at the time what an inventive, and superb cook she was. I reckon these days, I would even relish her lentil stew and dumplings, which, as a child I used to cram unchewed into my mouth and then spit into the toilet.

Among many other things, like gardening, painting, housework, walking unaided, and shopping, my mum really misses cooking. She now completely relies on others for her every meal - and there are a lot of kind people around - but I’m sure nothing beats being able to do her own cooking.

Having eaten some shop-bought coleslaw recently, my mum remembered the coleslaw that she used to make. So I offered to make her some. And having never made it before, I thought how hard can it be?

Very hard, it turns out! I have just delivered my third attempt and I’m waiting anxiously for the verdict. She takes it all with good grace and humour, but I know that my inability to be inventive with nuts and courgettes, frustrates the hell out of her.
My own children will never experience the joy of being cooked for by my mum, their granny – to sit at her table in her steamy lively happy kitchen and be served up a ‘random seafood pasta thing with egg, mozzarella and tomatoes in a glass bowl’ that my husband remembers with great fondness.

They do, however, get to sit on her lap and cuddle her, and talk to her, and make her laugh, and bring her immense joy, and for that I am very grateful.