I have made a terrible error of judgement. In a bid to cure my debilitating social anxiety I’ve followed the advice offered on numerous psychological websites and pushed myself out there. What better I thought than to put myself in a position where I couldn’t shy off, I would have to attend. And why not become part of the life of my new village too? So I joined the Community Council. I can hear you take a sharp intake of breath and see your heads sadly shaking from side to side. What was I thinking?
Of course, the inevitable has happened. There’s a reason why so many murder mysteries are set against the background of village politics. Miss Marple was definitely onto something. Midsomer is awash with corpses. Even the world-wide superstar JK Rowling and the not so famous but very entertaining Simon Pegg have waded into this arena recently with ‘A Casual Vacancy’ and ‘Hot Fuzz’ respectively. But still I did not heed their warnings.
My next door neighbour has authored and pushed a rather defamatory and divisive petition in order to get her own way over one particular issue. She has been peddling misinformation from the gossip-laden platform of her cafe. Yes folks, I live next door to a fake news channel. Now what does a socially anxious person do when stuck between her ridiculously self-inflicted duties as a community councillor and her desire to not fall out with the neighbours? Especially when said neighbour has promised to (eventually) remove the hideously ugly 4 metre high watch tower/shed they built right next to your fence. Of course I start brooding. Brooding. Brooding. I walk through the beautiful surrounding countryside with green fields, wooded valleys, babbling brooks and I’m still brooding. I try to read a novel, I’m brooding. I start cleaning the house, I’m brooding. I try to watch a movie, I’m brooding. What can be done?
Then I go to hang out with the hens.
They follow me up the garden chattering and fussing, keeping pace, overtaking, falling behind. I get a chair out of the shed and we all settle down. I sit with a cup of tea and just watch. They always gather round me for a while. First they wait to see if I’ve brought any treats. Then they start nibbling the grass and scratching in the dirt round and about me. Then one or two will settle down for a while and sun bathe or preen right by my feet. When Doc, my confessed favourite, lies down preening beside me, she emits this incredibly soothing sound. It’s somewhere between a cat’s purr and the low, percussive sound that a pigeon sometimes makes.
There’s something about watching them all going about their business that really tethers me to the Earth. I stop brooding. I focus on the hens, on the plants they’re shuffling amongst, on the soil they’re scratching, on the tiny creatures they’re seeking, on the birds chirruping in the hedges, on the clouds passing over and the brilliant, then dull, then brilliant light that illuminates the whole scene. Peace descends.
Hallowed be my chickens.