I’ve always had an affinity for eggs – that is, the type laid by chickens. Maybe it’s something to do with when I was born.
At the time my mum went into labour with me, she’d been watching a film starring Fred MacMurray, called “The Egg And I”.
I can certainly look back at a life littered with egg-related incidents.
As a four-year-old lad, I lived in Cyprus.
One Easter, my parents decided to have a picnic up in the Troodos Mountains with some of our Greek Cyprian neighbours and their children.
It turned out to be a memorable picnic. The adults had painted a clutch of hard-boiled eggs in reds, blues and greens and hidden them in the woods for us kids to find.
Decorating and colouring Easter eggs was a popular custom in the Middle Ages, and throughout Europe different countries now have their own styles and colours.
For example, in Greece, crimson-painted Easter eggs are exchanged, whereas in Eastern Europe and Russia, silver and gold decorations are not uncommon.
Our picnic eggs were not so grand, but I was still happy enough to find the most, even if they weren’t layered in gold.
Chickens have featured fully in my life
Liking eggs does mean a link to where they come from. So, no surprise, chickens have featured fully in my life.
During my teens we lived in Bournemouth, with a small back garden sloping up from our bungalow, dominated by a couple of apple trees.
No room to rear chickens? Wrong! I hadn’t appreciated my father’s ingenuity.
He managed to construct a chicken coop that integrated the lower branches of the apple trees as part of a two-tier roosting and laying quarters.
It became the happy home of six Rhode Island Red chickens. We were the happy recipients of daily fresh eggs.
Dad kept a log of the number of eggs laid each day. And he pencilled the date laid on each shell.
If he could have labelled them with the actual hen that had produced them I’m sure he would have done so.
As it is, decades on, whenever I go to tap the shell on my breakfast boiled egg, an image of his neat handwritten date flashes beneath my spoon.
In echoes of the Cyprian painted eggs, one Easter I did construct a tableau for my parents as a present.
In the centre was a chocolate Easter egg from Woolworths wrapped in silver foil. Around it I arranged several of Dad’s eggs, nestling in grass clippings from the compost heap.
Wedged between them were five fluffy yellow toy chicks (also from Woolworths), their pipe-cleaner legs bent at right-angles to ensure they didn’t topple over.
A befitting Easter present, I thought.
A grand opportunity to play a joke
King Edward I of England presented his royal household with similar Easter gifts, though on a much grander scale: 450 eggs coloured and decorated with gold-leaf. No Woolworths in those days!
There is another egg-related memory of my teenage days in Bournemouth, involving the use of eggs for a picnic.
It was a trip out to the New Forest with a friend of mine, Christine, and her parents.
Christine’s mum was bringing some hard-boiled eggs as part of her contribution to the picnic. At the time, I was very much into practical jokes. And I saw here a grand opportunity to play a joke.
We were breezing along the A36, all crowded into my dad’s old estate car. That’s when I broke the seal on the glass stink bomb I’d hidden in my pocket.
The smell of badly rotting eggs began to engulf the car. It got so bad that Dad was forced to swerve into the next layby he spotted.
Here, we all piled out. Christine and I staggering round in exaggerated circles, screwing up our faces, flapping our arms wildly.
Christine’s mum wrenched open the hamper and flung what she thought was the culprit – her hard-boiled eggs – into a nearby hedge.
I merely relished their contents
My egg-interest followed me into practice once I’d qualified as a vet, married and had a daughter, Rebecca.
We moved to a small-holding with seven acres that simply cried out to have some chickens strutting around.
It was my wife, Maxeen, and Rebecca who actually set the ball (or rather the egg) rolling.
Between them they levered an old shed into what had once been a dog run with a high mesh fence surrounding it. An ideal pen for hens, safe from foxes.
We purchased four hens, and named them Martha, Mabel, Matilda and Mavis. Rebecca’s four Ms. Those hens duly discharged their duty: fresh eggs every day.
I didn’t pencil the production dates on their shells like my dad did – I merely relished their contents.
Several dozen eggs appear weekly
Until that fateful morning when we went out to the chicken run to discover that a fox had managed to climb over the six-foot fence and somehow nosed open the shed door.
The four Ms had been chased out into the pen. Understandably, such an upsetting scene meant the cessation of further hen-keeping.
Twenty years on, the chap who helps with the garden where we now live in Somerset just happens to keep 40 chickens.
Several dozen eggs appear weekly, keeping me happy with breakfast eggs, boiled, fried, poached and scrambled.
As for the continuation of any Easter tradition, well, I don’t present Maxeen with anything remotely resembling the Fabergé Easter egg presented by the Russian Tzar, Alexander III, to his wife.
That was gold and white enamel. Inside, there was a golden yolk containing a golden hen with ruby eyes.
Maxeen will be happy with the large chocolate egg that I’ll get for her. So long as I’m willing to do so for many more Easters to come!
And for that, I don’t need egging on.
Read more fantastic features from “The People’s Friend” by clicking here.