Those eggs of Scrabble’s that I mentioned hatched the day after we left, which was the earliest possible date. When Rose texted me, she said that five had hatched and she’d popped the remaining ones under her black bantam, who was also broody. I haven’t heard anything since, so rather doubt they’ve hatched, but we’re going home tomorrow and will find out then. A total of fourteen chicks, allowing for cock birds, is plenty. I’ve promised a few to my friend Lynn, who gave me two birds when mine were killed last year, and four to six are quite enough to keep our lot going.
As we used to have around thirty bantams and I was never too good at telling them apart, I never knew how long some of them lived but, of those I did know, it was a pretty consistent eight years. The three big black hens, one of which died last week, were evidently a laying breed, basically – I’m pretty sure they aren’t pure-bred. I suspect that chickens bred for laying daily for months, to a couple of years, on end, which isn’t natural, don’t live nearly as long as those with a more natural life cycle.
Mike, of The Armoury, wonders whether I’m a born collector or not (see comments on previous post). No, I’m not. As Blue Witch suspects, living with a collector for over forty years gave me an understanding and, to some degree, an enthusiasm, but a limited one. I was interested in some of Russell’s collections but not all and I was involved with some of them – actually, it was the depth of focus that I could comprehend but not engage with. If, for example, he found an artist he admired, he’d want numerous paintings by that artist, even if we had no space to hang them. He had collections of all sorts of things that didn’t interest me in the least, such as stamps, coins and Goss china.
I have realised that there were some things I could have become enthusiastic about, if I’d known at the right time. Specifically three, I think: an American friend told me that she had a collection of Christmas ornaments. I had no idea they were collectable and I’ve never seen any for sale in antique shops, but the lovely old glass ornaments that I remember from my childhood, a few of which survive (though I didn’t discover them for quite some time after my mother’s death), are very much treasured. Before I had a cat and after I had a big ‘family’ Christmas tree, I had a small one in a pot, to be planted out later, on top of the Edwardian revolving bookcase, that had those charming baubles plus a few choice ones I’d bought more recently, and I loved them.
Years ago, an antiquarian bookseller – who had been my A Level Latin teacher, until the Grammar school went comprehensive and there was no need for such outdated education – showed me a copy of one of the earliest printed books: a Latin New Testament from 1485. I was bowled over. I wish so much that I’d asked him to let me know if he ever planned to sell it. Many years later, I did ask him, and he had already sold it and, by that time, I couldn’t have afforded it anyway. I left it too late to buy an incunable – or incunabulum, if you prefer the Latin – but I do wish I’d caught on forty years ago.
The third thing is corkscrews. I have a corkscrew that belonged to my grandfather and I think it’s Edwardian, though it might be late Victorian. It’s been in frequent use ever since that time. It works as well as it ever did; one of those corkscrews where you turn a handle at the top to screw into the cork, then push in the levers at the side to pull the cork out. I’ve got a couple of other old corkscrews as well, but they’re the simple screw in and pull out sort. This one is better than any modern one I’ve found. A couple of years ago, my friend J, whose collection of Lowestoft is museum quality, mentioned casually that she has a collection of corkscrews that she can no longer get upstairs to see. I said I would love to look at them one day, and I should raise the subject again, because I really would. That they are beautifully designed for a specific purpose is what appeals to me. Similarly, some time ago, I bought a gadget to open champagne bottles, as a present for Russell, that also – as a fabulous aside – also is a nutcracker. It’s perfect for both purposes! I think that might have reached perfect design.
But no, I’m not a collector. But maybe I could have been.