Living in Battersea in a council building, constructed, like so much of Battersea, on an old bomb site, I have made my house a very pleasant place to live. Which is handy, because I doubt it would be a popular museum or tourist attraction and so live in it I do.
I built my kitchen with my own hands, a solid edifice (a builder who looked over it reckoned it would make a sturdy bomb shelter were the rest of the building flattened – as over-engineered as a wetsuit in a shower); I know all my neighbours like the good country boy that I am, although when I first banged on their doors, most of them thought I was distinctly odd; and recently I moved two chickens into my garden.
These two, white, pecking creatures are very pretty additions to a garden that, quite frankly, needs more attention. I’ve honeysuckle and a climbing rose growing up and over the back wall, creating a prickly, impenetrable barrier to would be wall hoppers. Defensive gardening it is called. I suppose offensive gardening would be breeding plants that hurled abuse at passers by “oi, you with the stupid haircut, give us a piss, I need the ammonia”. The flower beds have seen better days and have an assortment of ill looking flora growing through them, including roses, brambles and potatoes. And the lawn is less a lawn than a patch of grass that has been trampled and shat on by the chickens.
But that is the way that I like it. You see, working from home, to be able to look out to an area of green with these inquisitive, clucking hens, who wander around in their staccato way until they eye up some flying insect that they imagine will titillate their taste buds and race full pelt across the garden like miniature aryan dinosaurs or like children playing as aeroplanes, is a very pleasant backdrop to my wandering mind in search for inspiration. But better than that, I also get fresh eggs.
The taller of these two ladies, with a straight comb and a hacking cough, is called Cat, so named because of her curiosity. Whenever I come into the room, she speeds towards the window to find out what I’m up to, and she happily eats from my hand, pecking at each specific grain like an excited youth smacking out a letter of love on an old fashioned typewriter.
The other one is called Pig. She has a smaller, wider, more rugged comb, and she likes her food. Watching Cat with a worm in her mouth being chased round the garden by Pig is better than TV. Pig is also the layer. They are both silkey leghorn crosses, white feathers, no fluffy feet.
And at the weekends, I pop down to the local street market and retrieve their thrown out vegetables and fruit, which I Magi mix up and feed my ladies with. A diet of mango, sweet potato and avocado, they eat well. It turns out, one of my main roles in life is as servant and chef to my chickens.
Central London can be a fine place to live. If you’ve got the right pets. And the right pets for central London are quite clearly a Cat and a Pig