On holiday in the Seattle area, I spent yesterday walking around the centre of the city and, after a lunch of clams and fish and chips, took a ferry across Puget Sound to Bainbridge Island.
After a visit to a bookshop, I was stopped by a member of the American Civil Liberties Union. He was looking for support for among other things, their campaign to close the POW camp at Guantanamo Bay. I explained that I was a foreign tourist, but he said that he had signed up someone from Australia recently. While I, in broad terms, agreed with the ACLU’s stance, I couldn’t bring myself to contribute to an organisation involved in political struggles in a country that is not my own. I meekly offered a link to the ACLU on my blog as a sort of substitute.
Before I went on my way, he offered me an apology on behalf of his country for its foreign policy mistakes in recent years.
Watching The River Cottage Treatment on TV this week reminded me of a memorable episode in my early childhood in the Caribbean. The programme concerned the attempts by Hugh Fearnley Eatitall (as he is known in our household) to persuade a group of people who had hitherto only eaten cheap, intensively reared chicken to commit to eating chicken that had been reared more humanely. Part of it involved participating in the slaughter of a chicken that they had got to know over the week. It provoked shock and tears.
When I was about five, our family spent a few years in Antigua. Our neighbours, locals, not ex-pats like us, kept chickens. I used to play with the children of the family and went to their house on Thursday nights to watch “Scooby Doo”: a rare treat as we didn’t have a TV. So when, one afternoon, I was invited over by the eldest son of the family, it didn’t strike me as anything unusual. Until, that is, instead of playing hide and seek with him and his sisters, he told me that we were going to kill a chicken.
The only details I remember of what happened next were that he asked me to hold a chicken, which I did. He then produced a machete and briskly cut its head off. To my open-mouthed amazement, instead of dropping dead on the ground, the chicken ran off, sans head in ever-decreasing circles around the yard, eventually flopping lifelessly in the dust. I don’t recall being traumatised or upset in any way, just amazed, as though this were a magic trick the machete-wielding neighbour’s son had performed.
I had noticed that my hat – an American broad-brimmed brown leather thing that startles the citizens of Gloucester – needed some waterproofing. So I bought some special wax, painstakingly rubbed it in and went out in the rain, feeling smug that my bald patch wasn’t getting cold and wet any more. True, but when I got home, the wax had come to the surface of the leather and created a whitish patina.
Having just bought a tin of wax for my (fake) Barbour jacket that recommended blow drying the jacket after application, I thought I’d try the same trick with my hat. I duly found K.’s blow drier and gave the hat about five minutes on maximum. The patina has gone and the hat looks much better. But I’m still waiting on a downpour to see if the patina comes back: today the weather had been lovely. Watch this space for an update on the hat wax saga after the next rain shower.