Thursday, 26 May 2016

The Naked Chicken Seller

Having been transferred from Wandsworth prison to Dorchester and spent, a not unpleasant, time lodging in a local pub I eventually moved into our new home in a lovely little Dorset village. Set in the head of a valley and at a dead end, we were quite hidden away from the world. Villages like this are quite common in Dorset and, although people are now much more mobile, they still offer the sort of freedom for village children that Kingsley did in my own childhood days. People living in these villages all know one another and community life is still strong although things like the village school, post office and shop have, for the most part, long gone.

Well, having moved in, and settled back into normal family life my thoughts once again began to focus upon getting a few chickens. We had a large garden, which since the house had once been a farm house, we also had an old brick barn with a built on pig sty. All that was needed was a decent fence and the pig sty would do very nicely as housing for the hens. So it was that I turned to The Blackmoor Vale Magazine to locate my birds. This magazine is the local weekly free publication which, in these parts, is an indispensable part of life. Quite simply it is invaluable both from the point of view selling things and finding, almost, anything an individual might need. Within its pages are advertised all manner of services, items for sale, forthcoming events, housing, places to eat and, if that were not enough, there is also a sprinkling of local news.I turned to the livestock section,which rests beside the farming pages, and found there to be several, adverts for poultry.One advert in particular caught my eye as the seller appeared to have a significant range of breeds to choose from. Located in the Piddle Valley, the sellers place was only a few miles from where we lived so I phoned and made an appointment to go over and see for myself what was on offer.

The instructions I had been provided with were good and I found myself driving down a narrow lane towards a fairly substantial house. Parking in front of the building, I rang the bell and waited. Nothing had prepared me for what was to follow. Having been a Prison Officer for a lot of years there wasn't much that took me by surprise, as the reader will understand, Prison Officers get to see a whole range of weird and wonderful people. As I waited and looked around me, it was clear to see, what had been a large garden was now a large chicken pen. There were chickens everywhere and cockerels crowing in every direction. After a short wait I heard noises from within the house and the door opened, there before me stood a man in his birthday suit. He was stark naked. Trust me, this does take one by surprise. Clearly my face said it all because, said gent, began to provide me with an outline of his life style choice and to explain that he was a dedicated naturist. Frankly, I thought he must be a complete perve! However, it takes all sorts and, having bought quite a lot of hens from him over the subsequent years, I got to know him and, strangely, became used to his appearance. Although, I thought his way of life to be bizarre, he was actually, quite a nice chap and was never improper in any way just, well, different. There are still many strange characters to be found in the heart of this very rural area, some seem not to have embraced modern life in any way, but this particular man was, so far, the strangest I have encountered.

In any event, his chickens were of good quality and over the next few years I bought birds from him and in so doing I learned quite a bit about the man. He had worked in service all of his life devoting most of it to one particular, very rich, gentleman. He had been, what he described to me as, a gentleman's gentleman. Travelling around the world with his boss tending to his every need and in the process seeing a very privileged life style. The boss had a large yacht and consequently spent much time cruising around the social hot spots of the world. At the time of meeting my chicken selling friend, his boss had died and he had retired. The house he lived in had been left to him by his former employer together with a huge amount of, no doubt, very valuable antiques. The house itself was not the sort of place most people would recognise a home. Apart from the huge amount of antiques, every room was filled with incubators, and or, brooders. This was his production line, hatching eggs and chicks were all over the place. The other striking thing to confront the visitor, (no pun intended), were the clocks. Clocks were everywhere and nowhere was free from their incessant ticking and chiming. The former boss had left all the time pieces, which he had spent his life collecting, to the chicken seller. Goodness knows how he would have felt had he seen his collection as they then were, covered in chicken food dust. Everything was covered in the dust and, although,there was a local woman that came in to clean I saw little evidence of her efforts. The sink in the kitchen always appeared to contain a week's supply of crockery and cutlery and it probably occupied the cleaning lady for most of her weekly visit in a mass wash up.

 The chicken seller had a strict routine, lunch was at the local pub, The Poachers Arms, and this was also where he spent his evenings. The pub was within walking distance of his home and, basically,when he wasn't selling chickens or asleep, was where he could be found. The landlord insisted upon a dress code and so the chicken seller had to comply but his compliance was minimal, he wore a pair of shorts, no shoes, no shirt just shorts.

The last time I tried to contact him to buy chickens he had passed on and that was now, a long time ago but I suspect he is still remembered and talked about in the pub and village.

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