Bob Dylan sings: Lay, Lady , lay. Lay across my big brass bed. There is nobody as laid-back as Bob Dylan, but the image puzzled me. I saw him as a poultry farmer addressing a good laying hen. The misapprehension is understandable, as big brass bedsteads were often pressed into service by farmers in times gone by, to fill a gap in a hedge. Bedsteads worked for sheep and cattle but hens could overcome them. In the evolutionary scheme of things, hens have almost achieved flight. Like farmyard geese, they see their more fortunate cousins flitting or gliding overhead but they are powerless to join them. They can launch themselves off the hen-house, flapping furiously but in vain. They lose altitude. They fall to earth and hobble ignominiously about the hen run. It must be heartbreaking. They can however make it to the top of a brass bed rail and escape, to lay in the bushes, to the frustration of the farmer, or more often, the farmer’s wife. ‘Laying out’ it’s called and who can blame them? They see their progeny ruthlessly gathered and taken away to become protein for humans. ‘Add two eggs; beat the eggs; fry the eggs; glaze with the white of an egg; scramble the eggs; separate the white from the yolk…..The litany is endless. Hens have never learned to lie (not ‘lay’) low. They cackle in triumph, giving the game away. The rooster struts and crows about his farmyard conquests. When his powers begin to flag he will be overthrown. He will become a figure of ridicule in the farmyard. He will be shunted down the pecking order.
I showed the children a shed full of day-old chicks. There is nothing as cute as a day-old chick. The children were entranced. There was a woman ‘sexing’ the chicks, thrusting the males into boxes and closing the lids. I don’t know how she knew. They all looked the same to me. The females got a temporary reprieve, being put aside to fatten up or lay more eggs. “What happens to the males?” I asked gormlessly. “Oh,” she replied in a matter of fact way, “they go to the mink farm down the road.” I ushered the children out before they could think of too many questions. It is kind of Bob to provide a big brass bed for his hen. It must have been sexed of course, at some stage, as he addresses the bird as “Lady”.
My little daughter was chatting to her friends at the garden wall when she saw the cat running in the door. “Oh”, she said in alarm, “He’ll get the chicken.” “Have you got a chicken?” asked one of her friends. “Yes, but I’d better go and stop the cat getting at it. ” “Would he kill the chicken?” her friend asked in alarm. “The poor little chicken.” “It’s already dead,” explained my daughter. “Aw!” “It’s in a plastic bag.” “Ahh” I’m not the only one to get the wrong end of the stick when it comes to poultry. Fortunately the chicken was still frozen solid and the cat’s evil designs were thwarted.
Sir Francis Bacon.
Not surprisingly, all this came to mind the other morning when I was scraping ice off the car. I should have worn gloves and a warm hat. It was the only morning this winter that ice was a problem. It took longer than I had expected. My fingers pained. The ice reformed almost as quickly as I removed it. We have had no snow to give old guys heart attacks from shoveling. Old guys should wear warm hats. My son and a friend went to Antarctica. The friend got a phone call in Ushuaia as they were preparing to set off across the Drake Passage. “That was my Ma,” he announced. “She says to be sure to wear a hat.” By the way, it’s also very slippy out there.
Penguins carry their eggs on their feet. It’s a good thing they don’t fly. Mink would do well in Antarctica. They dress for the weather.
Sir Francis Bacon was possibly the most impressive mind of his generation, (No, he didn’t write the Works of Shakespeare. Shakespeare wrote the Works of Shakespeare. Logical deduction.) He probably knew Drake and all the other eminent Elizabethans. He is remembered as an essayist, jurist and the ‘father’ of empirical science. He promoted colonisation in the New World, making a better fist of the colony of Virginia than Raleigh. He fell from grace on a charge of taking bribes. He admitted the charge. ‘Of course I take bribes but I have never given anything in return.’ Very few people of influence have been so frank. (I also am open to the receipt of bribes, if anyone is interested but like Bacon, I will give nothing in return. I have principles.) In retirement, Bacon devoted himself to writing and observing natural phenomena. He caught a chill when he got out of his coach to retrieve a chicken that he had buried in a snowdrift. He forgot to put on his hat. The experiment worked. The chicken was still fresh but Bacon developed pneumonia and died. If he had thought to wear his ermine robes and a mink hat with ear flaps on it, he might have gone on to make a new fortune from refrigerated foods. If he had tried cryogenics, he would be a rich man today, now that pneumonia is treatable. I note that Bob Dylan almost always wears a hat, even indoors. He’s still going strong.
A man on the radio was praising the efforts of Irish egg producers in finding new markets in the Middle East. He maintained that these eggs are hatched in Monaghan and Meath, packed and put on aeroplanes, and are on the shelves in Dubai a couple of days later. That would make for an interesting and cheep flight. Bit of a misapprehension there. Mrs “Pullet” Jones, the most laid-back motorist in Skerries, would never have approved of that. The man on the radio made no mention of Irish rashers.
The difference between involvement and commitment, they say, is like rashers and eggs. The hen is involved; the pig is committed.