The coop has been up for some weeks; the ‘Keeping Chickens – For Dummies!’ books are well-thumbed. We purchased building materials ages back, taking care to measure carefully and get exactly the right length of wire needed; the ground had been cleared and the chickensdirect websites bookmarked.
It is good to live off the land like this. Once I get a couple of chickens I will practically be Ray Mears.
It is possible that there have been longer building projects – the cathedral thing in Barcelona, perhaps, or the last Olympics. But it is important to get these things right. Plus we had been hinting to Len the Fish for ages that he might come round and ‘give us some advice’ which is code for ‘do all the work for us’. As it is, he agreed to turn up to help for the couple of hours that it would take us.
By day two of construction, I am feeling a bit down. Short Tony has disappeared to buy more wire, and I have been struggling for ages to hammer the same small staple into a piece of wood. Meanwhile, Len the Fish is erecting, wiring, twisting, hammering, digging, measuring and fixing.
“Thanks ever so much for your help again Len,” I mumble. I am embarrassed. “If you ever need some… ummmmm… humorous writing done, then just…”
I tail off lamely. It is shameful. Len the Fish is brilliant at everything practical. What he doesn’t know about practical things isn’t worth knowing. He has given up his entire week to do our fencing for us, and I have cock all that I will ever be able to offer him in return, apart from a pint, which doesn’t count as he will buy me one back. Despite being so powerful, I have about two practical skills in the world: I can use a patent type markup system that sends instructions via a modem to a plant in Watford that then couriers back your typesetting at twice a day intervals if it is before 1991, and I can name the local newspaper that covers each town in the UK, apart from the ones that I have forgotten.
“A pint. Just buy me a pint,” he replies, not asking me about Exeter, or Mansfield, or Leigh-on-Sea, or even giving any indication that he requires humorous writing services. I return to the single post that I have insisted on putting in myself.
“Huge gales forecast for tomorrow,” he says, not entirely reassuringly.
By dusk the run is complete. A happy home for six chickens, that we will probably purchase some time in the year 2163. Mrs Short Tony’s car draws up and she steps out.
Her jaw drops. “It’s a bit… bigger… than you claimed it would be.”
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