If I wait long enough and stand as still as a statue, the tiny wood mouse creeps out to steal the chicken’s feed when I scatter it around the chicken run. Darting from one place of cover to another, he ventures further and further until he reaches the food, stuffs it in his cheeks and dives back into the undergrowth beyond the mesh fencing. I can tell it’s the same one as he has a bright ginger streak on his back and that’s what I call him. “Morning, Ginger”, I say in a whisper as he goes about his daily duty.
Not so this morning though, as I can tell something is not quite right before I even get to the chicken’s enclosure – there is a tiny bit of a commotion going on, judging by the clucking. Normally the chicks make a noise like a rusty old squeaking bike but this is a noise of distress.
Between the mesh fencing and the hedge, in the deep undergrowth, I see that one of the bantam chicks has managed to get free but he is not happy about it and wants me to be reunited with his Mum. I’m not sure whether, he’s somehow managed to get under the fence or flown out, as he roosts high in the elder tree, but either way he knows he has gone beyond his limits. When he sees me he throws himself at the fence in a desperate attempt to get back with his friends and I am scared that he might hurt himself. Any attempts to scoop him up in my protective arms send him deeper into the undergrowth, no doubt to the annoyance of Ginger the mouse.
Not a lot to do about it but have some patience. Bide my time while the opportunity is right. Once I am out of site, he perambulates around the fence perimeter with his clucking Mum and brother shadowing his every move. When he’s on the near side, I see my chance. There is no cover here and with a quick run I can grab him before he makes the other side. Stealing like a cat, I make my way around the potager, then bursting at a sprint through the rhubarb I’ve got him and launch him over the fence in a flurry of feathers back into the bosom of his family. His mother gives me a filthy look as if this is all my fault. That’s gratitude for you.
Anyhow, she has two boys so I can’t keep them together for too long as they will fight so I will have to find a home for one of them soon. If anyone can give a good home to a blue bantam cock, just let me know.
As my holiday is nearing its end, I reflect on how privileged we are to own somewhere like this. It’s an idyllic spot at any time of day, in any weather. Last night, at dusk, I was fascinated by the areal combat of the bats as they swoop around to feed on the moths. There were so many bats it was like watching a Battle of Britain dog fight. Earlier in the day I was impressed by the carpet of butterflies that rise every time I walk past the herb garden, where they busily feed on the flowers of mint and oregano.
My friend came to stay with us for a few days, en-route to southern France. His children, Fyodor, Nikkita and Daksha had a wonderful time playing hide and seek in the garden and walking in the woods, casting poo-sticks in the stately river Charentonne and then disturbing its tranquil flow by throwing progressively larger stones until the exploding droplets of water drenched us all. This place was meant for children and I can still hear their laughter ringing out now, days after they have gone.
Back to work on Monday. It seems ages since we arrived but all good things must come to an end as someone once said – bloomin’ spoilsport, whoever he was So, like the little bantam, I’ve had my moment of freedom but I think I can safely say that I enjoyed my Great Escape better than he did his.