Baby White! Really!
Well a few of us like to visit our local hostelry in Wattlebury on a Saturday night. It is a very convivial gathering - some of us Sebrights and Rosecombs, Mickey the Cat, William the (Conqueror) Frizzle, Truffle - and many more. Harvey the Hound drops in for a crust and Bird sometimes provides the harmonies for the later rousing sing-song before we go home.
Last night was wet and windy but it was warm and cosy by the fire in The Pooch and Pullet. As is often the way, Mickey told us a yarn from olde and we gathered around to enjoy his tale.
"In the late 1800s - a long time ago - the Village Inn was often the centre of business - a place where the publican might sell insurance or where deals were struck between dealers and drovers, farmers or graziers, and where travellers could buy information with their ale. The Alehouse was very different - much lower down the social scale - a meeting place for labourers." Mickey pawsed and from underneath his woolly coat he pulled a faded pinky-brown piece of paper. The edges were curled and tatty and the paper was very thin, so he opened it slowly and carefully.
"This was written by Mr Richard Jeffries in 1880 - he was describing the local Alehouse:
'Beware that you do not knock your head against the smoke-blackened beams of the low ceiling, and do not put your elbow carelessly on the deal table, stained with spilled ale left uncleaned from last night, together with little heaps of ashes, tapped out from pipes, and spots of grease from the tallow candles. The old-fashioned settles which gave so cosy an air in the olden time to the inn room, and which still linger in some of the houses, are not here - merely forms and cheap chairs. A great pot hangs over the fire, for the family cooking is done in the public apartment; but do not ask to join in the meal, for though the food may be more savoury than is dreamed of in your philosophy, the two-grained forks have not been cleaned these many a day.' "
We looked at each other with screwed-up beaks and wrinkled brows - yuk! Gordon xxx
The day dawned drear. A heavy, damp and chillsome drear. We looked skyward for a glint of brightness and found not a chink. The path to Wattlebury was heavy and soggy with leaves - their golden brown weighed down with the sogg. Where Peter and his friends had raked and scooped in the early morning, it had uncovered a blackness that was most unwelcoming. The ditch was filled with water - patiently sitting in the still and oppressive gloom as it searched for a way to pass through the piles of stacked up leafage. The trees were bare, save for the clingy green shroud of ivy who was revelling in her commanding prescence when all around her was waning.
"I am going off on a Big Adventure!" Announced Baby White. "I am going in search of something useful!"
"Do be careful, Dear," Mrs White looked a little concerned, but at the same time quite looking forward to a restful five minutes without the bustling young cockerel wanting her to play and explore all the time.
"I won't be long Mother! Harry will keep an eye out," chirped Baby White as he trotted speedily and purposefully off, his body swaying from side to side as he gathered momentum.
We settled on our perches for a quiet nap, listening all the while for Harry the Peacock's alarm call - should there be any danger in the area. It was so quiet, just the drip, drip, drip of the increasingly heavy rain as it plopped off the side of the barn, a rhythmical sound like an old Grandfather clock, and one by one we nodded off.
Bird, meanwhile - who was still at Wattlebury Cottage - was trying his hardest to learn Jingle Bells. Dad had lowered his perches inside his cage so that his feathers on the top of his head didn't stick through the bars when he was in full tune. He really could do with a new cage - it was rather old and well used, but Mum had told him that if he learnt his new song, Dad would make him a new cage for Christmas.
All of a sudden the sweet repose was shattered by Baby White - his feathers wet and glistening - dashing into the barn with the prettiest bouquet in his mouth that you had ever seen.
"This is for you, Mother!" He dropped the beautiful twig, laden with the pink and orange adornments at Mrs White's feet.
"That is so lovely. Thank you Baby White!"
But Baby White looked sad. "It is very pretty, Mother. And it lit up the dark greens and browns of the woods, but it isn't useful," he hung his little head down.
"Sometimes the most beautiful things don't have to be useful - it makes me very happy and its bright colours light up the drear day for the woodland creatures. And anyway - I think it that you will find it is most useful!" Mrs White asked Harvest if she could go and fetch one of her reference books from her vast library behind the straw bale.
"Look dear, this man, Mr Turner named the tree 'Spindle Tree' - He says: 'I coulde never learne an Englishe name for it. The Duche men call it in Netherlande, spilboome, that is, spindel-tree, because they use to make spindels of it in that country, and me thynke it may be as well named in English seying we have no other name. . . . I know no goode propertie that this tree hath, saving only it is good to make spindels and brid of cages (bird-cages).'
- So you see, Baby White. Dad will be able to make Bird his new cage from the Spindle Wood - and Bird will have the most beautiful cage in Wattlebury!"
[Note: Dad doesn't know this yet!]
Glad to say Dad made it home again last evening. We were allowed to stay up later than usual so that we could hear how our family fared. There was great excitement when we heard his car rumbling up the lane. He was alone - but we knew that it was a two day show and he wouldn't be fetching everyone back until today. He also didn't have the balloons with him - something of a relief!
We pounced on him as soon as he opened our barn door. Baby White was zipping back and forth dementedly - but then he was over-tired, it being well past his bedtime.
"I am very pleased to tell you," Dad paused - to keep us in suspense a little longer. "That you all did very well indeed!"
We whooped and cheered as only chickens know how. We were so proud and Sylvia and I nodded delightedly.
"Dora got a third prize in a class of 14. Gilly came fourth out of 14 Gold pullets. Syd came 4th in the Silver cock class - and young Will Boden won with his bird!"
Again we applauded - as only chickens know how.
"Lisa won her Silver hen class! And Gabriel, Gloria and Grace won the Trio class! The best trio out of 5 lots of Golds!"
It was time to get out the Chick Crumb cake and celebrate like we have never celebrated before - and that, as the saying goes, is as only chickens know how! Gordon xxx
It's that time of year again. Washing and sprucing. Dad has been spending many a long hour studying my younger relatives and they have all tried to look their very best.
"I'm sorry Gordon. I don't think you're quite up to it this year," said Dad.
Well, that's a relief then. I can watch all the pampering and snooze contentedly when it gets all too much. Suits me fine. Sylvia, too, looks quite content to let the children bustle excitedly around.
So earlier this week Dad made the decision:
"Don - you will represent us in the Gold cock class. Dora - you will be my final choice as a Gold hen - you are looking very smart! Syd - will you go in the Silver cock class? And Lisa - would you like to go in the Silver hen class? Now then - this is more tricky - cockerels and pullets - Gaylord - I pick you! And Gilly! And you little Suzy - you can go too! I don't think you young Silver boys are quite up to it this year - but you'll have your chance later, I'm sure! Just left to find a trio of Golds then --- you two girls match up very well - Gloria and Grace. Just a nice Gold cockerel to find then --- Hhhmmm. Gabriel! I pick you!"
So today, well before dawn had even thought about dawning, Dad left with his excited passengers. Three of the young Rosecombs went as well - and as it was a particularly important Show for the Sebright Club, Dad also had a big banner and 6 silver and gold star-shaped balloons in the car. Mum waved goodbye from the warmth of the cottage as he disappeared into the fog, obscured by cardboard boxes and jiggling balloons.
Good Luck Dad!
The Spookadoodle turned into the Soakadoodle and whether the broomsticks were so sodden they couldn't alight - or perhaps they were blown off course - we couldn't say. But the night passed relatively peacefully, much to the immense relief of Baby White!
Hello! My name is Gordon and I am a Gold Sebright and my best friend is Sylvia. She is a Silver Sebright. We live with our foster parents on a small farm in the country. We thought that we would put our take on life and what we get up to through the year into a diary for you. All the characters are real and the events are a true record, interpreted with a modicum of poetic licence. We hope you enjoy it. Love Gordon and Sylvia