DAY 74: Tues 26 May

Phyisically and emotionally exhausted for some reason. (I blame Cummings)

The chickens noisily demanded to be let out of their hutch before 7 today, I had locked them in given the threat that rat poison would be thrown into their coop. When the hatch was opened they stood non-plussed by the scene that confronted them. We had dug out a section of their coop and piled up the earth beside the hutch, so their usual landscape was transformed. All their usual perches and logs had gone.They flew up onto the top perch and surveyed the trench and mound. The usual rush for food and water suspended in disbelief. It took a while for Mother Hen to make a move.

She was so discombobulated that she later laid her egg in the middle of the lawn where it was promptly eaten by her ‘sisters’!  Meanwhile I discover that another had laid her egg right in the middle of the hutch where she had been perched during the night, rather than in the more comfortable laying area which I imagine had been colonised by the two older birds. 

I got less that 4 hours sleep last night at best, which may be why my eyes are itchy and i am conscious that my eyesight has suffered after 74 days on staring at a computer and watching too much TV. However Specsavers is shut, and I do not drive, so I do not know how I am going to get to Barnard Castle…

Physically and emotionally drained, I suspect that the latter is a consequence do the former. One of my sisters begins her Chemo treatment today, and we all wish her the best. It has been delayed by the coronavirus crisis but as numbers decrease more ‘regular treatments’ can proceed. An old friend, Best Man at my wedding, starts his radio therapy tomorrow. They are both remarkably jolly and phlegmatic about it. I doubt I could be so ‘cool’.

I have many tasks to do, some intellectual, others physical. The simplest is to sieve the earth back into the trench we dug yesterday in the chicken coop, then at least the brood may feel more at home, and lay their eggs safely in the hutch. Mama Hen came to see what I was doing and quickly sussed that there were worms to be had. She clambered up onto a heap of earth and gorged herself with as many wiggly snacks as she could manage, then waddled up the ramp into the hutch for a siesta. 

Time for a cup of tea. It is exceedingly hot! My ankles keep swelling up, and someone told me nettle tea is good for water retention. I make some from the nettles in the garden. I have more often made nettle soup. Both are quite pleasant.

I almost fell asleep over Private Eye as I sipped my potion in the front garden awaiting a delivery from the ever-obliging Pet Shop Lady. We do a straight swap – my 5 kilos of fish food, erroneously ordered online, for 20k of Layers Pellets. At which point a young lad appear at the bottom of the garden steps brandishing a large glass bottle. I really must go to Barnards Castle and check my eyesight. At first I did not recognise grandson No. 2! And the decorative bottle in his arms is almost a family heirloom. It originally contained schnapps from my early visits to a friend in Germany back in the 1970s. But now it contains home-made elderberry cordial. A nice surprise but a brief visit. My daughter is about to take the grandsons for a bike ride.

To keep my self awake I take some cuttings of a ‘Hot Lips’ Salvia and a Purple ‘Smoke Bush Cotinus, both damaged by the recent winds. I hope they fare better than my rose cuttings; only three of a dozen seem to have shown any sign of life. I have never been very good with flowers. 

Earlier I had hung some strips of silver tinsel on the cherry tree in the vain hope that the birds will allow me a few this year, but there are so many birds around this year that I doubt I will get a look in. As I have stopped feeding them during the rat hiatus, I suppose I should not expect any favours from them. 

There is curious little wren zipping about the garden, front and back, and at least two nests in the front garden; pigeons, sparrows, blackbirds, robins, magpies and a dunnock are regulars, along with a marauding squirrel that has been sharpening its teeth on the neighbour’s new lead flashings! 

I put the chickens away and I am ready to drop. My house guest takes over the watering and I take a shower. I have been sent some presentations to review but, fascinating though they are about the surveillance state, my head can’t take it all in. I shall have to postpone them until after I have had a good night’s sleep. I send my apologies.

I am not normally a fan of quizzes but there is to be a street quiz tonight and I had half agreed to join in. But there appears to be a never-ending debate on WhatsApp as to whether it will be actual (suitably distanced outside of people’s gardens, as with the Sunday afternoon ‘cocktails’) or a virtual QuiZoom. I  think different households are devising the different topic rounds. It is evidently strengthening bonds, and has given what is normally a quiet cul-de-sac a really positive vibe. But it is not for me this evening, I can barely hold a pencil, let alone think straight.

Too knackered to cook I heat up a turkey and gammon pie, make a small salad, and break my rules by opening a Chenin Blanc from South Africa. To help me sleep, you understand.

I shall find something soothing to watch with my supper, and then try to get to sleep early for once. My daughter told me the boys had watched some sort of mindfulness programme that advised going to bed regularly and early to establish a basic rhythm during lockdown. Small chance. When I start to write it is hard to stop, and the same when I start a film…

Mike J

Journalist, trainer, editor; storyteller; amateur historian.

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