This is the story of the luckiest, most cock-sure cockerel that has ever lived – Bertie Wooster.
We bought Bertie about a year ago. We named him Bertie, because my youngest daughter, Frida, has difficulties pronouncing the letter r and says wooster rather than rooster, hence Bertie Wooster. He soon had a lady friend which we called Jeeves and they had some chicks, then some more chicks, and then the chicks had chicks, and we had some many chickens that we stopped naming them. Bertie is the forefather of our chicken dynasty and is without a shadow of a doubt my favourite chicken.
Bertie, also known as Cocky, is cock-sure in every sense of the word. When he is not cock-a-doodling in our back yard, he has sneaked under the fence and is visiting his many friends and lady friends in the neighbourhood. We live in Kigamboni in Tanzania, a very rural part of Dar Es Salaam, and consequently his patch, or should I call it hood, covers acres of land.
I suppose it is now I need to tell you that I am a lackadaisical vegetarian. Well, if I was on my own, then I would be a vegetarian, no questions.I spent 16 years of my life as a true vegetarian. But now I have three small children (one of whom is under weight and another a meat addict) and a husband who is an amazing cook, but who likes to cook meat. Also here in Tanzania vegetarianism is just not a concept which people comprehend – I remember saying to a Tanzanian colleague a couple of years ago that I was a vegetarian, he said so you eat chicken, I said no, he laughed at me, then looked puzzled and walked away. I guess most people eat what they can, when they can get it – and when they get meat, they eat and enjoy.
In short, it has been a long time since I marched round with plackards and badges saying ‘Meat is Murder’ outside McDonalds. I try not to eat animals and have a predominantly vegetarian diet, and when an animal gets a lucky escape from the chopping board, I am always be happy and I know my loyalties will always lie with the animals.
So the story goes, one Sunday morning, Carolina, our house dada and Elias, our askari, had decided to kill a couple of our chickens and prepare them for Sunday dinner, one for them, and one for us.
Usually my husband will prepare meat dishes, but as it was father’s day, I had already promised I would put aside my vegetarianism and help the children prepare a roast dinner treat for their daddy. At least I didn’t have to kill it. But it was soon after I was starting the preparations for dinner, that I realised Cocky was missing, and that bird I was basting was my beloved Bertie.
While eating our special father’s day dinner, I explained to the children that they were eating Bertie, and they paused then Leon and Frida asked for a leg each. Although, Lottie, my eldest daughter, said she thought it was not really right to eat poor Bertie (Hurrah I though, I can see a future vegetarian ally in her).
At the end of the day Mark, my husband, thanked everyone for making it ‘such a lovely father’s day’ (Not for Bertie I thought to myself).
The next morning, while pottering about in the kitchen , I heard a very loud, very distinctive, very cock-sure cock-a-doodle-doo. I stopped what I was doing immediately and ran outside to see Bertie proudly strutting around the yard, positively cock-a-hoop. And at that moment if Bertie could have talked I am sure he would have said: “I am the resurrection and I am the life” – then launched into a kick-ass version of “I’m Back” by Eminem (I just get a feeling that Eminem and Dr. Dre would be more up his street than The Stone Roses!).
I’m still not entirely sure which chicken we ate that day, but one thing is certain, it wasn’t Bertie and on this occasion he had dodged a bullet.
Animals (well Cocky) 1 – Humans 0 “Cock-a-doodle-doo.”