Monday, September 19, 2016

Small Scale Chicken Farming

Coccidiosis is not the easiest of words to pronounce. For example, after taking a run-up at it earlier today, Mrs Grumbler managed ‘Cock Cilla Doses’, which sounds like a dreadful venereal disease caught some fifty years ago in Liverpool’s Cavern nightclub.  It is, in fact, a parasitic infestation of birds and animals and not a word most folk are going to need unless, like us, they are small scale chicken farmers.

Now, when I say “small scale chicken farmers” I mean that we have a relatively low number of chickens, rather than that we farm chickens whose size is a fraction of the generally accepted norm. Not for the want of trying, however….

Some weeks ago, while watching the BBC’s ‘Countryfile’ and reading a Victorian horror novel, I was struck by a particularly intriguing bolt of inspiration. There was an article on how people with small back gardens can keep chickens but what, my inner voice asked me, if I were to produce a chicken one tenth of the size of a regular one, specifically so that people with window boxes can have their own (admittedly tiny) fresh eggs for breakfast?  Several mad-scientist possibilities occurred to me and I resolved to begin my experiments in pico-poultry-production first thing on the morrow! 

We can cut a long story short and gloss over the many attempts which earned me little more than a startled “Awk!?” and a baleful glare from my test subject (as well as a turkey baster I can never bear to use again, but thats a story for another day) but, eventually, by good old fashioned selective breeding I’d managed to produce remarkably compact birds. With one small problem: every successful mini hatchling was, without exception, male.  All of the hens were regular sized.  And so it was that in the end I had to concede defeat because, and I know that you can see this coming a mile off, nobody wants a tiny cock…

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Dear Europe, an open letter

Dear European Union

I’ve never been afraid to admit when I am wrong.  I haven’t had to be, because I’m usually not wrong ;) When I am wrong, though, I can be quite spectacularly so…

So many years ago that it feels like a different lifetime, I had a relationship (who that was with doesn’t matter, and you don’t need the person’s name – even now I wouldn’t want to cause them pain)  which, if I’m honest, worried me a little even while it was happening. It worried some of my friends a lot more than that, and some of them were brave enough to tell me so.  But I was ensnared; I had built a relatively comfortable life (or so I thought) and I was terrified of what I might lose if I ‘took steps’ to end that relationship. I figured I could change the other person’s controlling behaviour, and bring logic and compassion to their world view (which lacked both of those things).

In hindsight it turns out that not ‘getting the hell out’ was one of the most expensive and damaging decisions I have ever made – or failed to make. It cost me health, money and friends.  The first friends to go (not of their own accord, the person I was with engineered their disposal) were the ones who had my best interests at heart.

OK, maybe I wouldn’t be where I am now (which is a place I like a lot, and wouldn’t change) but, had I taken a decision based on an ‘unclouded’ view of where I was all those years ago much pain would have been avoided. 

And now to current affairs...

A few short weeks ago, many of my friends voted for us to leave you. I was stunned, disappointed, and afraid of what might happen. Despite being concerned about many of what I perceived as your ‘flaws’ I really thought I could change you, and that I was better off in your arms.

In relationship terms, we’ve told you we are leaving and we have started to pack our bags but we haven’t divvied up the CDs yet and not even begun to talk about access to the kids once we have gone our separate ways. But you’re already telling us, and the rest of the world, that you’re gonna make us pay for leaving you.  Not necessarily because you want us to suffer, but you want to make it clear to the other people you’re in a relationship with that leaving will hurt. This is the first clue to me that I may have been wrong.

You know, that’s not how love is supposed to work.  Folk are supposed to stay together because of the joy that brings, not because of the fear of the spite and pain that going their separate ways might entail. Hearing you talk of how you’re going to make ‘an example’ of us has opened my eyes to your insecurity, and made me realize that perhaps the relationship I thought we had wasn’t as cozy as I’d believed.  It’s already put some distance between us, and that’s helping me see your behaviour in a different way.

The immediate ‘disasters’ that were foretold if we were to decide to split have spectacularly failed to materialize. If anything, I’m already a little bit better off.  This is the second clue that I may have been wrong.

I can see, just as happened so many years ago, your attempts to make some of our friends who are also in a relationship with you turn against us. You’re trying to line up France and Germany in particular who, along with ourselves have effectively financed your behaviour for all these years.  What do they gain from mistreating us?  Nothing.  So if you have your way, you are the only winner – everyone else loses.  The third clue, and a hard one to miss, I’d say.

The funny thing is that if you stop being so spiteful then you’ll see that you and we could both be better off in an amicable divorce, where we can still be friends. But I don’t think you’ll ever see that, because it would need you to change your ways, and drastically.

And now, let’s see how you’re treating Ireland, and Apple Corporation.  They haven’t actually done anything that is ‘wrong’ – in the eyes of the law (law which *you* made). But nevertheless you don’t like what they *have* done.  Whose fault is that?  Theirs, for doing nothing wrong, or yours, for failing to set out how you wanted them to behave?  Now that you’ve decided they’ve pissed you off, you want to make them both pay, and pay so much that the cost will echo through history. Your hubris is astounding.

This is the straw which broke the camel’s back as far as I am concerned.  The scales are lifted from my eyes. I now see you very differently, European Union, to how I did just a few short weeks ago.  You’re a jealous, twisted, illogical and self serving character, aren’t you?  The only interest you have at heart are your own, and you will rewrite  history or even the laws of nature to see to it that you come out on top. It matters not the slightest to you who has fed or nurtured you in all these years – if it suits you to turn on them and devour them, like a praying mantis to her mate, then nothing on earth will stop you. You are no lover, you are a succubus.

The irony of my ‘road to Damascus’ moment isn’t lost on me, as so many people flee their own literal or figurative war-torn Damascus in the hope of a safer, better life in Europe. Perhaps their hopes and fears, their energy, their relief in escaping a known devil,  this ‘new blood’ will satiate your vampiric tendencies, if only for a short time.

But you and I?  We are done, my former love. I will walk away, and not look back. No fear of turning to a pillar of stone for me, just a sadness in the realization that a relationship I held dear was rotten to the core, and at the same time a lightness of heart that things can only get better now. Others, soon, will come to realize the same and, in time, I think you will go the way of Ozymandias, and I don’t want to see the maggots boiling from the eyes of the half-sunk, shattered visage that will be all that remains…