Magazine article The Spectator

Long Life: Alexander Chancellor

Magazine article The Spectator

Long Life: Alexander Chancellor

Article excerpt

I was saying the other week that my new hearing aids had come with a warning not to swallow their batteries, because this could be bad for you. I doubt if anyone would choose to swallow a battery, but such warnings against barely conceivable eventualities are now commonplace. Manufacturers rack their brains to think of new perils to which buyers of their products could theoretically be exposed. Sometimes these warnings make no sense. I will not distress you with details of the colonoscopy I endured last week (all fine, just one little benign polyp), but the packets of laxative powder designed to empty the bowels prior to this humiliating procedure were labelled 'Keep out of reach and sight of children'. Out of reach, yes. But out of sight? What's scary about the sight of a packet of powder?

Last weekend I went to the old-fashioned butcher in Towcester to buy a chicken for Sunday lunch, and affixed to its wrapping was a note saying 'Cook before eating'. Who needs telling this? Even in Northamptonshire there can't be many people so hungry, desperate or ignorant that they will hurl themselves upon a raw bird and gnaw away at it. But maybe chicken farmers feel they can't be too careful and might be exposed to legal action if they haven't given warning that raw chickens are not very good to eat. You'd think that even people who had never personally encountered a chicken would be aware of this from their viewing of cookery programmes on television. They may not ever cook anything themselves, but they will surely have grasped that with chickens cooking is the preferred approach.

Talking of chickens, I don't want to count them before they're hatched, as it were, but the position regarding my own poultry is a great deal better than it has been. Or so it seems. Having fretted for years about how to let my chickens wander the garden freely without being killed by foxes (very many having suffered this fate), I now have them fenced in behind yew hedges in a patch of garden that so far no fox has tried to enter. Maybe some brave Charlie (as people call foxes here) will have a go soon, but in the meantime all is peaceful and serene. I only have five chickens at the moment, but they're laying five excellent eggs a day, and I don't even have to shut them in their coops at night any more. …

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