I arrived home before dusk, anxious in case the four new chicks a friend brought me earlier in a cat box wouldn’t know where to sleep. Little orphans, barely feathered out, rescued chicks, released into a strange flock that morning and pecked into their order. No clue where the bedroom was and no idea which perch was theirs. As darkness wrapped itself around us, they became blind, running erratically into bushes and corners and driven by instinct, peeping to each other in fear. The cats stalked them, I stalked them. All was terror. I cornered each bird one by one, capturing them in a flurry of feathers and squawks, their skinny feathery bodies trembling in my hands. The cockerel tutted inside the dark coop, he wasn’t coming out for a few tearways. The last one caught, I shut them all in safely, cussing softly, relieved at their capture. I waited in the dark until their peeps subsided. Turning, I caught the Hunter’s moon rising behind me, mellow, yellow and calm. My little drama was a scene the moon had witnessed millions of times before.
“Will you marry, me, Mrs Johnson? ” Ted asked, putting two milk bottles through the kitchen window, always ajar, one gold top and one silver top. He asked this every morning as he delivered the milk. My mother gave him a tired little smile and said what she always said “Oh Ted, I’m already married, you know.” Ted nodded at the customary answer and walked away with his head down, back to the milk van, his sadness palpable. I think he really wanted a wife. Ted was a “mongol” as we called a person with Down’s syndrome in the sixties. At eight, I wondered at the word. He lived alone with his mother and we never knew who his dad was, or cared. Ted was as much part of the village as the vast oak tree on the green, Mrs Hurley in the village shop, or the village vicar. He was always immaculately dressed in a clean, pressed checked shirt, a home knitted grey tank top and twill trousers. He had a job on the milk-round and everyone knew him. He commanded his own respect and only got angry if anyone was unkind to him. Ted and his mother taught me what Care in the Community should be.