People suggest I write about more than chickens; the series is, after all,
titled “Hereabouts” and there is more going on around here than fowl play.
We had considered switching our internet service, responding to an offer made
by the phone company. We found when we looked into the matter that not
everything the sales person said was true. ‘strawdinry! So we unwound the
deal. The consequence of all this was that the phone company did something
that somehow prevented our answering machine from kicking in. Their guy came
out, called people, concluded that it was all our fault. A different problem
developed, a crackle on the line. Out they came again and decided that problem
was a pole two houses down, which they would need a bucket to reach. “While
you’re here,” I said, “we have another problem. Let me dial our number and
you’ll hear the recorded instructions we’re getting.” He agreed that the
answering machine problem was likely their issue, so he called someone, who
called her supervisor. Neither of them was able to fix the problem. He said,
“Let me try one more thing,” and dialed another number. That person knew
exactly what the issue was, removed the additional services that had been added
in anticipation of the switch to fiber, solved the problem. Number one guy
departed, promising that the bucket people would be along at some stage.
I was having lunch when there was a knock on the door. Another guy, come to
fix the problem. I looked at his van. No bucket. I explained the prelude and
he said he didn’t think even a bucket would be able to fix the problem because
a little way down the road someone had allowed a tree to grow into their pole.
What we needed were the cable guys and the tree trimming guys.
Meanwhile, he said, why don't we think about getting fiber? I laughed, started
up the guitar and gave him the backstory to the backstory. He said he thought
he could get me a better deal than the one we’d backed out of, whipped out his
phone and called. Why was I still talking to these people? Because in the
interim cable company had raised the price of their service and because I’d
talked with friends who are happy with the phone company’s service.
We worked out a deal, made an appointment next week for the installation. I
tried to get on with work. When I looked up, there were two phone people our
yard, trying to fix the original problem…without bucket, cable or clippers.
Which they did, simply by switching from one copper line to another.
I’m really enjoying dipping into Alan Bennet, “Writing Home,” particularly on
writing days when this activity becomes part of my warm up and stretching.
Here he is on how the title of his play came to be changed when people made a
film of it. “The title of the stage play is ‘The Madness of George III’ and of
the film ‘The Madness of King George.’ This was a marketing decision: the
American backers somewhat shamefacedly explained that the audience might think,
seeing ‘The Madness of George III,’ that they had missed out on ‘The Madness of
George II,’ a survey having apparently shown that there were many moviegoers
who came away from Kenneth Branagh’s film of ‘Henry V’ wishing they had seen
its four predecessors. Where this leaves ‘The Third Man (or ‘The Second Mrs.
Tanqueray) I’m not sure.” Piffle, of course—show me someone who goes to see
Kenneth Branagh play Shakespeare not knowing what she is getting into and I’ll
show you a unicorn—but engaging piffle.
Who knew such a category, “engaging piffle," existed? Me, I suppose. That’s
probably what I try to write.
On Halloween I kept the cats and Hamish inside until I believed all risk of
ghosts and superheroes and ballet dancers had passed. Not quite long enough.
When Hamish went out into the back yard after eight he was quite vocal about
“There are odd noises! Odd noises out here! Children screaming! That could
I told him how much I appreciated his alertness but that the situation was
under control. The chickens, disturbed by barking, muttered in their sleep.
Whether the chickens’ singing group will continue to be called, “The Pioneer
Chickens” is a matter of some debate hereabouts. What is not contested is that
the chickens have begun in earnest to choose a musical direction and it seems
to be Hawaiian. When I see them in the distance I can sometimes pick out hints
of hula movement, but when I go close they clam up. Not ready for an audience
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