Sunday, September 20, 2009

Birds of a Feather

September 21st 09

Birds of a feather

‘Do you think many people nowadays know how to pluck a chicken?’

Your man does that sometimes. He just comes right out with a question and let’s it stand there naked, on its own, completely out of context and without any relationship whatsoever to the conversation up to this point. When pressed about this he says it’s because he has an active mind.

‘Do you think many people nowadays know how to plant a chicken?’

He gazed into the bottom of his glass as he waited for an answer and was unmoved when I chortled loudly.

‘What do you mean? Plant a chicken?’

‘I mean pluck a chicken. You know that. You should listen to what I mean; not to what I say’.

I emptied my glass slowly.

‘You always know a good pint of Guinness by the way the top goes right to the bottom of the glass’ I said, ‘Look at the rings’.

Your man looked at me for a long slow minute.

‘You can tell its age by counting rings’ he observed, ‘like a tree. And your pint is nearly as old. It’s your round. You’re a very slow drinker’.

He motioned to the barman to pull us another two pints.

‘Now’ he continued ‘about the chickens? I reckon that there are very few people nowadays able to pluck a chicken. In fact it may even be that there are people who don’t know that chickens need plucked. Most people only know chickens when they come served on a plate or when they see them naked and footless and headless and featherless, a little bundle of white flesh and bone on a supermarket shelf’.

Our pints arrived, black as night with their collars of yellow cream exact and as inviting as could be.

‘It seems a pity to spoil that by drinking it’ I said.

‘It’s as pretty as a picture’.

‘Slainte’. Your man said, gulping appreciatively at his pint.

I sipped gently at mine, trying hard not to destroy the collar.

‘The chickens’ he continued, ‘you haven’t answered my question about the plucking chickens’.

‘I don’t intend to’. I answered evenly. ‘How would I know how many people can pluck chickens?’

‘You cud guess! You cud enter into the spirit of things. This is a serious question. It’s about what we as a people have grown into. And your lack of response proves my point. You wud rather see how long you can stretch your pint. You don’t care any more about the important things’.

I considered that. Maybe he was right. But I couldn’t concede that. When it comes right down to it everything is relative. A good pint is important as well.

‘How many people cud pull a good pint of Guinness?,’ I challenged him, ‘Any sucker cud pluck a chicken’.

‘In the old days yes. We were more self sufficient then. Before the Celtic Tiger. Before the Troubles. Not now’. Your man said plaintively.

‘I don’t like the way people call it the Troubles’. I reflected, ‘It was more than that.’

Your man ignored me.

‘My granny kept chickens out in the backyard’, he continued. ‘In the coalhole’, he added.

‘What did they do with it?’ I asked.

‘They ate it. No sell by dates in them days. No best before …’

‘It cudnt’ve been very nice’. I mused. ‘All black and all’.

‘Your pints all black and all so it is and your delighted with it’. He looked at me angrily. ‘They washed the chicken’.

‘After plucking it of course’.

‘Of course’ he said.

‘In those days people knew how to do things like that. Nowadays even the farmers don’t have chickens. They don’t even grow spuds. We import cabbages and spuds. Imagine. In Ireland’.

‘Ninety per cent of the Ash wood used in hurling sticks comes from Poland’. I volunteered.

‘You’re having me on’, he said.


‘Well then it’s worse than I thought’.

He looked at me tearfully and finished his pint.

‘Whose round is it?’ he asked.

‘Yours’ I said.

‘You sure?’


I placed my empty glass beside his.

‘You finished that very fast’, he said.

‘When I don’t keep up with you, you complain and when I do you complain as well’.

‘It’s the way you have me’, he shot back.

Two more pints arrived. We gazed at them contemplatively. After a long languid silence your man turned his gaze dolefully towards me.

‘How do you pluck a chicken?’ I asked him

‘Well …’ he said. ‘You ……………………..’


Micheal said...

Good one Gerry, quality is always appreciated.

It's such a daunting world with all it's changes and technological constructions. The mind who makes it all is reflected in it, and I can't relate to any of it. it's not my world any more.

Initially it was what credit card you had but now you have to be able to shop online with it as well. And control it all with a mobile while listening to an i pod.

I share your man's romantic melancholy for that halcyon bygone age, even if it was only a figment of a television's imagination, another reflection of a creative mind that was not mine.

Forty years of desire and a mid life crisis, you have to see the funny side of it really.

Anonymous said...

Very Zen Gerry,

I think there is an important point in this post though. We are deluding ourselves if we expect foreign investors to bring us economic prosperity , North or South.
While I would not like to see a return to the days of DeValera's economic isolation, it would do no harm if we started growing our own vegetables, ash trees and processing what we eat.


Paul Doran said...


I noticed on your No to Lisbon lealfet you are mentioned as Gerry Adams MP. You are also an MLA, Set an example and give one of these jobs to someone else

moonlitetwine said...

Well, Grandma never let me in the yard, while she was plucking chickens. But, I know it's done after the head is cut off and blood drained.

And, it must smell badly to cut the head off.

Anonymous said...

posted by Kathy Collins


Interesting timing. Last week a poor chicken catcher who was watched by millions of tv viewers won 'America's got talent' and now your chicken story.

the answer is...put the dead chicken into boiling water for a few minutes then pull off the feathers. My brother did a Boy Scout project raising chickens. One of our family's prized photo's is my sister as a child bending down looking at the headless chicken right before plucking. She was less squirmish then me...she had no trouble eating them. Kathleen Collins

Timothy Dougherty said...

I feel sometimes like a view from a far Gerry,Seomtimes you have to do the hands on Job , the old ways are sometimes the best. Just read about the petrol bomb attack on Sinn Féin’s Connolly House,thankfully nobody was injured. You have a job to do and you have to keep on with it and doing it well.Even with change comes the understanding of what you have learned from the past.History is not to be forgotten or becomes irretrievable. nice post Gerry

Linda Coleman said...

A very good question. My grandfather raised chickens in the backyard, and he was the one who wrung their necks and plucked them, but my mother never did. All she did was collect eggs.

And then there's me and my generation. I've seen live chickens before, but I'd be afraid to come up to one and try to get an egg from it. I can't imagine catching on, much less killing it with my bare hands, plucking it and cooking it.

Our generation and the ones coming up could go all day without thinking about where our food comes from.

Anonymous said...

Very seldom read your blog Gerry but found the chicken story (discussion) very enjoyable. Keep it lit.