Planet excerpts

Rachel Trezise reclaims her grandfather's Treorchy chicken run from bramble and long-gone landowners, remembering happy childhood mornings letting out the hens at first light, only for a vicious turf war to break out...

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Saturday afternoons at my grandparents’. The raw spring sunshine reflecting on the wall above the fireplace in the living room. Cheering from the rugby field in the town below us echoing up the valley. In the kitchen my grandmother’s making pie: corned beef, blackberry, crab apple, one of these. ‘Fingertips,’ she says sieving the flour lightly through her age-thickened digits, imploring me to learn. ‘It’s all in the fingertips… keep them co–’ I interrupt her lesson, shrieking with a six-year-old’s delight at the sight of a brown-feathered hen staring sideways at us through the window. ‘Chickadee!’ I shout at the hen. All my grandfather’s chickens were called Chickadee; all the cats, Mr Tibbs.

One of my earliest, happiest memories is of climbing the vast, steep acre of garden with my grandfather at first light to let the chickens out of their shed. I wrote about it in a story called ‘Chickens’ in my first collection. From the peak I could see the whole of Treorchy; four chapels, five pubs, the tennis court and the Park & Dare, the early morning delivery at the International supermarket on the High Street, all swaddled in a cotton-woolly ground mist. After lifting the drop bolt on the barely standing zinc cabin I had twenty seconds to get out of the run before the chickens were behind me in droves with their low droning racket and mindless pecker-nodding: I was as frightened as I was fascinated by them.

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