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  • Jo Clement

Coop


For generations, the side of our family from Durham worked on farms. Even though I didn’t grow up in a quaint farmhouse with acres of land (more a damp three bed on a dodgy council estate) this way of life played a massive part in my upbringing. Our concrete garden was always full of flowers and vegetables.


Easter makes me homesick to get back there. To chew freshly pulled chives. Fingernails muddied from filling beds with fresh soil. Waterfalls made of the rows of hanging baskets. Bulbs planted carefully. Ugly secrets waiting to make good. 


With a rose tint, I was pretty lucky to have nature around me like that in our garden. Dad was to thank for that. Plus we had an allotment at Hundens Lane. Before he got ill, Dad built it up from scratch. There were beds full of vegetables, fresh plum trees and hairy sweetcorn. We’d plant sunflowers and race for the tallest, check the tomatoes reddening from green and watch the prickly cucumber buds grow smooth. Even now, shop bought tomatoes and cucumbers smell and taste nothing like those from our hot houses, hot and oxygen rich. The smaller the sweeter, bitten tomatoes would pop against the inside of your cheeks as the chickens gently grazed and clucked.


We’ve always kept hens. Free range and organic was standard. Dad would hint at our brood being very different to others. I swore to secrecy but he wouldn’t say why. It was my job to climb into the coop and while they were distracted with a scoop of thrown grain, check if they’d laid, then pull out the still warm eggs. Each egg was a different shade and size and I'd treat them well, knowing that to break one meant I’d not be allowed to do it again. So carefully, I'd brush aside strands of shit and hay, blowing downy feathers stuck to the shells, cradling them on top of each other in my little wicker basket. 


One Easter Sunday, nestled in with speckled brown and nude eggs, I found a huge foiled egg, in darkest purple. I didn't know at the time but Dad had driven up to the gardens that morning to plant shiny green eggs and Creme eggs in the nests for me to find. Back then was made of magic.


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