Something there is about a chicken that wants to climb high into a tree at dusk. That's all well and good; but the danger for chickens is early morning, when the foxes come out for breakfast.
Tonight at dusk I left the party, changed my shoes and drove up to Ceres. By the time I got there it was pretty much pitch black, and the chickens were lined up quietly on their perches in their shed. I counted them, but came up two short, and I remembered that this morning I had found two black ones outside that had eluded capture the night before (the group is on a fortnightly roster). Determinedly, I went outside with my little torch and started scouring the runs, to no avail. Finally I saw two black chickens high up in the quince tree. By climbing a couple of feet into the tree, I could just about reach them with the end of the rake, but no amount of poking or prodding (in the dark, clutching my little torch, trying to keep my balance, trying not to poke my eyes out on the tree, trying not to wreck my clothes, trying not to hurt the chickens) would budge them. I then tried giving the branch a vigorous shake, but from underneath I could just see their little feet curling tightly around the branch. Finally — it's pretty much pitch black, remember — I had to climb up over bags of mulch, onto the wooden supports of the flimsy wire fence between the two runs. Standing five feet off the ground, propping myself against a quince tree in the dark, I had to reach into the tree and grab the two chickens, one at a time, then precariously lower myself down so I could drop them onto the ground. And then I had to jump down off the fence and run around to the gate into the other run so I could chase them inside before they took it into their heads to fly up into the tree again.
All this time I had an image of how funny it all was — except that I wasn't so much laughing as swearing. The funniest thing though was when I finally picked them up to put them inside, they both set up such a dreadful complaining squark. They really didn't want to go inside; they really didn't see why they couldn't stay up in the tree; they'd been all right the night before, so what was my problem? And then when I put them inside, all the other hens woke up and squarked about being disturbed. Not sure I'm spelling 'squarked' correctly: but I kind of like the look of its awkward q and k there.
I was very glad to get back to the party, I can tell you. Our boys had played beautifully for Peter's guests: Joel set the keyboard to the marimbah sound effect, and it blended perfectly with electric bass and drums. After most of the guests had gone, the band and its parents dined on a perfect pea and ham soup and orange and almond cake, and then the boys played again. As parents, we are simply in awe of our talented children. We are of a generation that learned to play music, but learned to play set pieces from scores. These kids experiment and improvise, and take the beat from each other, and watch each other to produce perfect, irregular rhythms together. Now that Joel's wrist is out of plaster and is gradually becoming more mobile, the drummer, naturally, has a thumb in plaster; and was holding the brush between the second and third finger of his hand. The poor boy had a blister developing on the inside of one finger from this unaccustomed use. But they weren't going to stop the music...