It is a truth universally acknowledged that anyone in Britain who can afford it should buy a little place in the country for the weekend repose and relaxation of his or her friends. Fortunately for us, we have such dutiful friends, and on Saturday after B.A. went to work, I went to the railway station where I missed my train by approximately 15 seconds.
Fortunately there was another train, so after a noisy cry (during which a foreign young man tried to comfort me, thus underscoring how very foreign he must have been), I got on it and went to my friend's little place in the country, which is half farmhouse and half Georgian grandeur.
To be precise, I went to the railway station nearest this Eden, and after my friend took me to her house, she remembered the dog food she had bought near the station, so she drove back to get it, leaving me in the chicken shed.
The chicken shed is a kind of large wooden box, about 7 feet high and 14 feet long and wide, with a plank outer door to the world and a chicken-wire inner door to the chickens, who live in one of two pens. Despite all this glorious space, there are only three of them. They are Rhode Island Reds and beautiful.
It was sunny, and as I stood among the chickens, who clucked and scratched away at the straw around my Wellington boots, I looked out through the open outer door at my friend's black lab sitting in the grass and beyond him (and a little to the left) at my friend's black-and-white cat sitting under a bush.
It was very, very peaceful.
After I fed the chickens, I went out both doors and around to their run and took the rock and the screen away from their pop-hole so they could enjoy grubbing around their orchard. They are enormously lucky hens in that their run contains at least one apple tree, so they can peck at apples or apple-eating bugs all they like. They also enjoy scratching at the earth while chuckling in a manner very soothing to the human ear.
And I thought that if you spend hours and hours every day in such worldly toils and cares as (for example) writing your 15th article about the McCarrick scandal, one excellent antidote is to spend some time with chickens, watching them peck and scratch in their tiny-brained way. Minus chickens, it might be almost as relaxing as to play with blocks with toddlers. Watching chickens all day might become as boring as I'm told it is to play with toddlers all day, but as a change from brainwork both are excellent.
Another excellent thing to do is go on long walks through the Scottish countryside with the hospitable friend, who is wearing bright rain jacket so neither of you is mistaken for a duck/grouse/deer and shot. You walk over hill and under dale and climb over fallen trees (or crawl under fallen trees) and fall in the mud and get deliciously tired before dark and sitting down to a splendid supper. Naturally before eating you put the screen and the rock in front of the pop-hole after having checked that the chickens are all now companionably roosting together in a great feathery squash.