Thursday, 21 June 2012

Eavesdropping for beginners

I have a stupendous commercial idea - a series of language courses that would cover the deepest needs of anyone visiting a strange country (and most countries are strange). French for Eavesdroppers, Basic Eavesdropping in Italian, Listening In On the Next Table in Spanish, and so on.
One of the things I miss about pubs, now that I hardly ever go into them, is the enjoyment of listening to Irish people bawling their most intimate secrets to their neighbours over the loud chatter. Mind you, as one gets older this is more difficult: a request to science - would you ever design a cochlear implant with a directional microphone?
On Friday, in a pub in a Liffeyside street, some stáitseirbhísigh - couldn't work out what Department, but you'd know by them - were questioning their colleague. "She was teeny!" he said. I was earwigging like mad. Love interest, I thought, or new puppy. But then he made all clear: "But the second she spoke you could hear a pin drop." He must have been among those present when Aung San Suu Kyi visited Ireland. To my annoyance, a flood of fellow civil servants came in and I couldn't hear the rest of it over the racket.
But next to me were two men discussing their cases - social workers it seemed. I conscientiously closed my ears. Not so, though, when one started talking about his love life - this is, obviously, something that the conscientious eavesdropper considers well within her moral ambit.
"My friends all tell me I always fall in love with crazy girls," the man next to me confided. I nearly ricked my neck stopping myself from turning around to get a look at him.
"Do they so?" his friend said. "Do they?" He seemed to be in the position of wise old adviser. Unfortunately, I hadn't got a good look at him either when the two of them sat down, and now I couldn't.
"She bought me this yesterday," Crazy Girls said. He laid a spectacularly ugly watch on the table.
The other man turned it over. "Inscribed!"
"One hundred and twenty euros! And that's before she paid to have it inscribed!"
"Your name and everything."
"She's spent €180 on me in the last three days."
Then my own friend arrived and we solved the problems of the country for the next ten minutes. (Expel Germany from the euro, the mark would find a proper level, as would the euro, and then stiff the banks; they've had enough by now. Simples.)
At that stage Crazy Girls and his adviser got up to go, and like a flash my eyes swivelled over and gobbled them up. The adviser was a grey-haired man of sober mien. Crazy Girls, to my disappointment, was no prize. A nice enough looking youngster, but you wouldn't want to be spending all your money on him. Still, maybe he had hidden talents.
Anyway, I was telling my pal about the two of them afterwards, and she said she'd nearly died of frustration on a recent visit to Italy, because she was in a train carriage where everyone was talking about sex and politics and she could only understand one word in ten. It wouldn't have been so bad, she said, if she could understand nothing at all.
So, Basic Italian for Eavesdroppers. The vocabulary would have to include "married man", "sister-in-law", "love", "spent a fortune", "politician", of course "bunga-bunga", "brown envelope" - and so on. I give it freely to the company that wants to make a fortune.

 Lucille Redmond's ebook, Love, gripping dark and funny stories of love and revolution, is available on Amazon and iTunes

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Notes from the Seanad, 1934

In 1934, in the middle of the 'Economic War', when Ireland stopped paying Britain compensation for land confiscated and redistributed to tenant farmers, and Britain reacted by placing a 20% duty on food imports from Ireland, crippling the Irish economy and resulting in mass emigration, the Special Branch killed a group of protesting farmers.
In the Seanad debate, Kildare Senator Richard Wilson spoke, in terms that could be replicated today:
It is not political bias or political conspiracy that is at the bottom of this unrest. The farmers would pay their way if they were able, and as they have always done, and it is not to make any political capital out of this situation that I am speaking here to-day.  
I am urging the Seanad to ask the Government to set up a tribunal to examine the situation. I have stated the case in a rough and ready way, and I will just finish my remarks by a reference to the payments which are being extracted at the present time on the basis of the low prices. Last year the British collected from the farmers of this country £4,500,000. 
The Free State Government collected in land annuities £2,000,000. That is £6,500,000 collected, and out of that they gave in bounties £1,750,000 leaving a sum of £4,750,000 net loss to the farmers. That, in fact, is more than all the annuities and the other moneys that are in dispute. 
The farmers have to pay that money out of produce which they are selling 20 per cent. below pre-war prices. 
If civil servants who get a bonus were suddenly to find themselves deprived of that bonus, and, in addition, if they were to find their wages cut 20 per cent. below pre-war level, what would they say about it? If the Guards or the servants of the local authorities, the school teachers or the artisans—if all these people had their remuneration reduced to the same extent as that to which the farmer's remuneration is reduced, surely we must all agree that the farmers are really mild in their protests in comparison with the protests that would be made by those people?

 Lucille Redmond's ebook, Love, gripping dark and funny stories of love and revolution, is available on Amazon and iTunes

Monday, 11 June 2012

How to write a joke...

...or a story. This is how jokes work: you introduce a concept that's a bit off-centre: "Waiter, bring me a crocodile sandwich!" Then, when people are smiling a little at the oddness of this, you turn it around and twist it again: "And make it snappy!" Like a moebius strip, so it's turning in on itself and going around and around.
Here's another: "How many Freudians does it take to change a lightbulb?" Odd thought: a bunch of bearded and bespectacled psychoanalists clustered around changing the lightbulb. "Two, one to screw in the lightbulb, the other to hold the penis - I mean, ladder." Lightbulb jokes always rely on odd electricians: "...surrealists?" "A fish!" "...feminists?" "Do you think that's funny?"
All jokes use this basic formula. Shaggy-dog jokes just stretch out the first part for a loooong time. My old chief sub Jim Carwood used to tell one that involved a man leaving his house, bumping into a lamppost, making an insurance claim, putting the money on a scratchcard, winning a million, going into a pub, being picked up by an incredibly beautiful Indian woman, taking her home and going to bed with her and in the morning waking up and saying "You've got a spot on your forehead and scratching it - and he won another million! And the punchline: she says to him, "You're a lucky man!"
Stories use the same basic idea: your hero is put into a situation where he's thrown off centre - as in Claire Keegan's superb Foster, where the child of an all-over-the-place family is brought to stay for the summer with her mother's sister and brother-in-law. Then further off course: in Foster, the child's father drives off with her case of clothes, and the aunt and uncle dress her in boy's clothes and put her to sleep in a boy's room, but there's no boy in the house. Gradually, as the story opens out, things get odder, and yet reveal themselves, until with the twist at the end, in the last line - but I won't spoil the pleasure of reading it for you.

 Lucille Redmond's ebook, Love, gripping dark and funny stories of love and revolution, is available on Amazon and iTunes

Sunday, 10 June 2012

We all partied

Two statements define the upper class's reaction to the disaster that crashed the Irish economy in the last five years: the late Tánaiste and Minister for Finance's Brian Lenihan's "We all partied", and current Minister for Finance Michael Noonan's "Emigration is a lifestyle choice".
Both are the statements of people who live in a restricted area of society. From the point of view of these upper-class politicians, these members of a ruling class, they are true. These people do not know anyone - or at least, are not close friends with anyone - whose children have been forced to emigrate for lack of work. If these people and their friends borrowed and spent recklessly, it was not to buy a home for themselves and their children; it was to invest in sources of further profit, to further enrich themselves.
This is not so for the rest of us. I visited a friend in the Dublin Mountains last week. A second son is emigrating to Australia with his wife and children. "I don't know why he's going," he said. "He has a grand job here." His wife said: "He's going to make the money to pay down the mortgage, and to have the kids' university fees." Their son, a highly qualified and expert mechanic, is going to work in the mines. "I've worked in the mines," said his 75-year-old father. "The air pressure down there ruins your health. You're only supposed to work two hours at a time, but they all work full time and overtime, don't tell me they don't."
We all partied: the politicians, mostly men from a background where a steady income had been theirs all their lives, and now in the Lotto class, with unimaginable pensions piling up, with daily access to a huge salary, expenses - even unvouched expenses amounting to the same amount as someone on disability gets every year - invested in apartment blocks and second and third homes; so did the people in the circle within which they moved. The Irish saying had always been "Put your money in land; they're not making any more of it"; the Irish philosophy had always been that land retains its value.
With the coming of the multinationals, and, for the first time in the history of the Irish State, secure jobs were available to a growing middle class. Education had, for the first time in the history of Ireland, been extended to the whole populace. People whose older brothers and sisters had left school at 14 and got on the boats from Dun Laoghaire and Cork to go and work as servants and factory hands and miners were able to go to university, and to get professional jobs.
Joining the EU had opened up farming to grant aid that changed the face of the country, and its exports. I remember cycling from Dublin to Galway, Cork and Donegal in the 1980s and being astonished at the luxury of the farmhouses where I went to ask for water to boil up my tea - the damp, dark thatched cottages with their squinting windows and a crane over the fire were gone; now small farmers were living in five-bedroom detached houses with porticoed doors and 100-meter tarmacadam driveways, fitted kitchens and living rooms packed with silver-framed photos and state-of-the-art entertainment centres. The effect on the country was stunning; we became Europeans. We also bought our own homes.
Historically, Ireland had always had a housing crisis. The annual lottery for council flats was a front-page story every year up until the 1980s, the fact that suicide threats could get you more points on the housing list a constant scandal.
Irish landlords were famous for their pillaging profit-greed, grinding a profit out of every tenant and doing the minimum to keep the rental housing in good nick. A Constitutional case worsened this by choosing the right to property over the right to a decent life, and so ending restrictions on raising rents.
Another friend of mine was renting a room in Dun Laoghaire while waiting on the eternal housing list; when the inspector called she showed him the mould that had grown under the mattress in the week since she had turned it. She told him she was going to move out, because it was dangerous for her baby to live in such conditions. "But that will knock you right down the list, if you move!" he said, horrified at her recklessness in choosing the health of her child over the chance of a council flat.
When Europe and America invested in Ireland, all this changed; at last, a growing class had a regular, good wage, and the possibility of buying a decent home and owning it outright after a few years - the possibility of not having to rely on the Corporation or the landlord.
God never opens one door but he digs a hole in front of it; this good thing was the doorway to a bad thing. Despite the growing education, and the growing equality, there was still massive unemployment, mainly in the class that had less education - because, despite the opening of education to the whole populace, there had been little attempt to give a hand up to those who were unluckily born into poor areas; the impoverished were given no extra boost. So there was a large dole class still, with no skills but their strength.
The combination of the desire for housing and the need for work was the makings of a perfect storm. The dole queues started emptying as long-unemployed people poured into work as unskilled and semi-skilled labourers filling the jobs in construction. Houses were built and bought, and the money was ploughed into more houses.
The price of homes started to rise. In the 1980s, an artisan cottage was £10,000, but the possibility of affording it was remote. People borrowed for a 'car' from the credit union, and used that money as a deposit. By1980, I think it was, the price had risen by 50% to £14,000. It seemed reckless and crazy to go into debt for such an amount.
But the prices went up and up. People were absolutely desperate. Buying your home was like clutching the runners of the helicopter during the retreat from Saigon - once you had it, you were safe. And we sat there watching as the prices rose and rose - and so did the rents.
The thinking was that if the worst came to the worst, you could throw the keys back to the lender and go back to renting. On the other hand, if you could keep paying the mortgage you were sitting pretty.
In 1990, a €45,000 mortgage on a Dublin semi-D cost €550 a month; 10 years after that, a tenant was paying €1,200 a month to rent a flat on the quays. Or an "apartment", as we had now learned to call flats; a "flat" now only meant a Corporation flat, and no one wanted to be associated with such a thing, in our new semi-prosperity.
Ireland was doing well: the educated had jobs in technology or finance or pharma or the professions. The multinationals had hived off companies run by their Irish staff, who were now trading with Europe, the US, the Middle East and the Far East. The construction workers were doing well. Wages were going up and up.
Wages were going up and up. One of the advantages that had drawn the multinationals to Ireland was our membership of the EU. Despite being an island, adding to the cost of exporting, we made a good base for export into the EU. We had instituted a cheap corporation tax because of this island disadvantage, which attracted the corporations. But another part of our attraction was a highly educated and creative population with a wage base far lower than the rest of Europe. Now wages were going up and up.
They had to go up - the price of houses was rising, driven by demand; wages had to go up to pay for the houses.
By 1987, an 1880s redbrick house in the Dublin suburb of Harold's Cross, which had sold for £20,000 10 years before, was worth £32,000. By 1989, it was worth £80,000. By 2007 it was worth £2 million.
More and more people poured into the construction industry. Ireland's roads had been famously winding and pot-holed; Ireland's telephone system had a two-year waiting list for a phone. Europe started pouring money into constructing modern highways and motorways and a 20th-century telecommunications system, making more work for the construction industry.
Ireland had virtually full employment. The councils stopped building homes and started selling those they had to the tenants who lived in them, at super price deals, to increase ownership and 'responsibility'. Former council tenants who had bought houses (famously better built than private housing) for £20,000 sold them for £60,000 and bought a new home and a holiday home, to the indignation of the inheritance class.
By the mid-2000s, the construction business was almost half of the country's industry; 45% of the GDP. If the politicians or the economists who advised them wanted to cool the pressure, they did not know how. We had joined the euro, so the usual option of raising interest rates on loans was no longer available.
Somewhere in the middle of all this, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern revealed that when he was Finance Minister he hadn't had a bank account. How did he get his wages, people wondered - a huge wage packet with his thousand pounds a week or whatever in notes that he would count carefully, licking his thumb as he thumbed through them? Now, he told economists who warned that the economy's dependence on property that they should go away and commit suicide. The boom, he said, was only getting boomier.
Irish people's lives had changed - we were eating and drinking like Europeans; flights and holidays were cheap; spending was good, it seemed, because it spread the profit around.
The enormous power of the construction industry - because in Ireland, moral power comes from wealth - meant no politician was going to suggest the measures taken by other countries, like making it illegal for the value of land to be changed by rezoning from agricultural to industrial or residential; or compulsory purchase by the State of land to reduce profit. After a series of scandals in which State employees were revealed to have profited from planning decisions, the political parties were terrified to lift the lid on any construction problems.
When the bubble burst, the worst hit was the construction industry, the 45% of the country's moneymaking that had concealed the empty heart of the boom. Almost immediately, people who had been working in construction began to emigrate - a neighbour's kid, qualified as a plumber and a year before looking forward to a life of luxury as a self-employed businessman went to Australia, hunted for work for a couple of years, came home, went to London, where he's now working for the railways in a decent but not highly-paid job. He's lucky.
Emigration may be a lifestyle choice for the children of the friends of politicians; for most, it's a hard, grim, realistic choice. It's also a choice that takes the pressure off the same politicians, as they impose new 'austerity' on the poor.
The admitted rate of unemployment in Ireland this week is almost 15%. Nine people per hour are emigrating - most of them from what has been bitterly nicknamed "Generation Emigration": the young, the talented, the ones we need desperately if we are to recover from this disaster. Seventy thousand people a year - and accelerating - are currently emigrating.
Noonan reckons this "lifestyle choice" will be temporary: the young will go abroad, get glamorous jobs, make useful contacts, and return to Ireland in a few years with new skills and the ability to foster new trade. Is he delusional? We didn't all party; only the rich friends of the politicians did. It's not a lifestyle choice, not for most of us.

 Lucille Redmond's ebook, Love, gripping dark and funny stories of love and revolution, is available on Amazon and iTunes

Friday, 8 June 2012

On the buses

On the bus to town - writing at home was impossible, I wanted people around me while I worked, and I was going into a pet shop anyway to get BioActivator (dig a three-foot-deep hole, drop the dog poo into it and cover with earth; once a week slosh in a bucket of water with a capful of BioActivator and it rots down fast and you don't have to dig another hole for ages).
As the bus drove up a friend came running, with her son. We all got on, and she and I proceeded to chat away, with me sat on the front seat beside a young girl, and my pal and her son on the seat behind me.
I didn't notice as the girl beside me got out - until a stocky woman with a shopping trolley said: "Excuse me, can I get in there?"
I apologised and leaped up - and the woman sat her bottom down on the outside seat where I'd been, and invited another woman to sit on the inside.
"I won't take that woman's seat," the other woman said.
Mrs Trolley said indignantly: "I wouldn't take anyone's seat! I wouldn't be so ignorant!" (Completely ignoring me standing beside her and trying to keep the grin off my face.)
When the woman she'd invited wouldn't sit down, she invited a grey-haired man, who rushed in and sat down quick.
A chorus of indignant looks roasted Mrs Trolley. The woman who had refused the seat turned to me, raging, and proceeded to critique Mrs Trolley's manners extensively and comprehensively, until I choked "I'm getting off at the next stop anyway, it's grand, it's grand", and hastily got off, smothering my laughter. Mrs Trolley was still sitting there, her trolley against her knees in front of her.

 Lucille Redmond's ebook, Love, gripping dark and funny stories of love and revolution, is available on Amazon and iTunes

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Fine Gael or Republican?

TONIGHT, dining with a friend, we invented a wonderful game. We were re-fighting the Civil War - Irish, not English or American - and I was making the point that I thought Michael Collins (left) might well have gone on to be a Franco or a Salazar had he lived.
I think I may have got this idea from my mother. This despite the fact that to my mother as a small child he was the adored "Uncle Mick" who'd come to see her and sit her up on his knee and give her sweeties.
Anyway, we started out looking at people passing on the street as we walked back from a local pub whose food (unjustly, alas) had won a high reputation for good quality at low prices. "Republican!" the two of us chorused as a man passed on the other side of the street. "Fine Gael!" as a group of three went by.
We couldn't say how we knew - or, of course, if we were actually right - but as we say in Ireland, we "knew by them".
Then we started transferring it to public figures. Marlene Dietrich? Fine Gael, deffo. Doris Day? Fine Gael! Marilyn Monroe? Republican!
What about politicians? Reagan? We both hesitated, then said: "Hmm... actually... Republican!" Bush? Fine Gael, without hesitation. Back to some actors: Harrison Ford? Republican! Cllista Flockhart? Ohh, of course Fine Gael!
Martin Luther King? Republican! Nelson Mandela? Republican! Che Guevara... ummm.... ummmmmmm.... Republican? Fidel Castro? Republican! Gianni Versace? Oh, Fine Gael, no question about that.
Once you started, you can't stop. Gene Kelly? Republican! And not only that you'd know by him, there's also the story of his striding up to a blacklisted writer and seizing his hand to shake it, putting his arm around the writer and turning to grin into the cameras, defying the anti-Red forceds to do their worst.
It's nothing to do with the Fine Gael party, certainly nothing to do with the Fianna Fáil party as it has become in its latter years. It's more to do with the 'set' or the 'make of a person.
And Gregory Peck? Republican! The reaction is instant (Frank Sinatra? Fine Gael! Dean Martin? Fine Gael!)
But Gregory Peck also had family form. In the year he was born, Thomas Ashe, his great-uncle or second cousin, led one of the 1916 Rising garrisons, in Ashbourne, Co Meth, eventually reluctantly laying down their arms on the orders of PH Pearse in the general surrender.
Ashe (left) was a huge tall man, very well-made and handsome and a noted piper. He was condemned to death on the same day as Eamon de Valera, and like de Valera's, his sentence was commuted to live imprisonment. He was sent to jail, escaped, jailed, escaped again. In 1917 America joined the Allied side in the Great War, and the Irish-American lobby put pressure on Britain to free the thousands of Volunteers and Citizen Army who were in jail.
Ashe was arrested again for making a "seditions" (probably anti-conscription) speech in Longford, and was jailed in Mountjoy Gaol.
Here, he and others went on hunger strike. The warders force-fed him, and according to my mother's account (insider knowledge, as always in Ireland, where everyone has a source), because he was so tall and strong, several prison warders would pile on top of him to try to force feed him.
Like most people at the time, she believed that the piercing of his lung with the instrument used in force feeding was deliberate. He died, a nasty death from pneumonia, a few days after his lung was pierced and filled with gruel during one of the attempts at force feeding. Over in America, Gregory Peck would have been seventeen months old at that stage.
Peck ("Republican!") was a big man too, six foot three. He grew up in California, son of parents divorced when he was six, and was brought up between his mother, his father, the maternal grandmother who is the traditional haven of lost children, and military school. He went to UCLA Berkeley as a pre-med student, but discovered acting there. He would become one of the 20th century's greatest actors.
In To Kill a Mockingbird - his greatest role - he would play a quiet hometown lawyer who takes on a case he can't refuse, and is forced to challenge the set views of his neighbours (Fine Gaelers? Republicans? A mixture!) who are locked into the apartheid of 20th-century America.
But would Gregory Peck really have been a Republican or a Fine Gaeler? Ah, definitely a Republican. You'd know by him.

 Lucille Redmond's ebook, Love, gripping dark and funny stories of love and revolution, is available on Amazon and iTunes

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Blast from the past: The Henternet

WHEN someone gives you three beautiful bantam pullets at point of lay, and a couple of weeks later one of them starts swaggering around crowing, and they keep growing and growing, the time has come to look for independent advice.

And where better to look than the Internet?

Not an egg from any of the chicks – Maeve, Grainne and Wilhelmina - and they don’t seem to be interested in nookie either. Could I have three cocks? Could even the gods be so unkind? Who can tell me?

Luckily the Internet is, well, flocking with hen sites, which I hoped could help me with my chicken-sexing dilemma.

I put one eye on Maeve (macho, hoarse-voiced, red of comb and suspicious of eye, crowing hopefully every morning).

I put the second eye on Grainne (suspiciously Kellogg’s-logo-looking - by the same token, by the way, the Gaelic-L maillist for Irish-speakers had a vigorous debate some months back about whether Kellogg’s rooster logo came from the fact that the company founder’s researchers had discovered that the family name originated from the Scots Gaedhlig word “coileach”).

I put the third eye on Wilhelmina - “That one’s definitely a woman,” said my son’s Dutch girlfriend. But no eggs, and no cries of “an-egg-an-egg-an-egg-and-I’m-baaaarefoot”, or the Irish equivalent which I have long since forgotten and would love to know again. (This an-egg-an-egg-an-egg-and-I’m-baaaarefoot” is one of the translations of chick-talk. Another, “Mac a h-Óighe slán” for what English-speakers call “cock-a-doodle-doo” means “the Son of the Virgin is saved” and supposedly comes from an old story about two guys gossiping around AD33 as they cooked a chicken in a pot over the fire. “Did you hear about that fellow in Palestine that the Romans executed,” one said. “Apparently after three days dead he rose up alive.” The other man gave him a look. “I’ll believe that when this chicken gets up out of the pot and crows,” he said, whereupon the chicken leaped out of the pot, flapped its wings and shouted “Mac a h-Óighe slán!” Which is why many of the illuminated manuscripts have images of a cockerel above a cooking pot, flapping its wings and crowing.)

So to the Internet.

Where there was plenty to be found. First port of call was the Poultry maillist, a silent place with scarcely a posting, unless my mail software is doing something funny. So I defaulted to Dom_Bird, another maillist, this one strangely sited in Poland.

Here were lots of people keeping hens. The posters ranged from the “what age is best for meat and grows up fastest?” type of farmer to the anthropomorphising Silkie-keeper who noticed that her cock wasn’t the usual competitive type. No! He saved titbits not only for his mates but even for the baby cockerels. She wrote that this romantic soul was always waiting to give his favourites the choicest worms and snail-eggs. “Every day is Valentine's Day with him for a mate,” confided his owner.

Then there was the unfortunate guinea-fowl keeper who discovered that her birds were smarter than she was. Guinea-fowl are hen-like, but have tiny heads and big bodies, with a graceful, swelling look, and have adorable personalities, unless they don’t like you, in which case they beat the tripes out of you.

This poor poulterer’s fowl had been outsmarting her for nearly a year. “Every night, after the chicks all go in, I would shoo the guineas in. We'd go in circles around the henhouse, with them missing the door every time. I assumed this had something to do with the fabled guinea brainlessness. They'd never veer off track, always stayed in a path around the henhouse. Occasionally, one would peel off and make it inside, but we had to do a good ten or twelve circuits before they were all in.

“The other day, I had yenched my back and was in no mood to run in circles around the henhouse, so I just stood there near the door. The guineas ran to the front and around the corner. A minute later, one peeked back around the corner to look for me. Then they all came around, ran to within a few feet of me and back around the corner. They repeated this action several times. The little goobers were trying to get me to chase them again! The whole thing was one big game to them and bought them a little extra outdoor time and some entertainment at my expense. Eventually, they realised I wasn't up for the game and just trooped in. I swear they shrugged their shoulders as they walked past me.

“I hope none of the neighbours noticed!”

Apart from the maillists, there’s the Web. It’s full of chicken sites. The kids' favourite is the ooh-ah Feathersite


with its adorable pictures of our feather-footed friends, as well as ducks, geese, guinea fowl, pheasants etc. Good information, too, and links to addresses for fanciers' clubs.

There are bulletin boards, like the active Poultry Info Exchange message board ( and the Rare Poultry Breeders version, at There's at least one newsgroup, at sci.agriculture.poultry.

There are several useful maillists. Apart from Dom_Bird ( to subscribe), the wild gardening list (Wildgarden at has lots of poultry-keepers on it. Many of the biodynamic gardeners of the BD-Now list are hen-keepers too (write to and ask to subscribe).

All of these are great sources of information. Mind you, I still have no idea if Maeve, Grainne and Willy are boys or girls. They all have hackle feathers, but none has spurs; nary an egg to be seen. They are as pure as St Enda, without a thought of any high jinks with the opposite sex (whichever that sex may be). And every morning I go out to the music of Maeve crowing happily to greet the nine-o’clock bell.

Some hen sites:

The Poultry Place:

The Chicken Page - University of Texas's poultry site:

Page O' Chickens:


Little Farm:

Nubin's Chicken Coop:

 Lucille Redmond's ebook, Love, gripping dark and funny stories of love and revolution, is available on Amazon and iTunes