Chickweed and Canaries

muddy memoirs

Chickweed and Canaries

My great grandfather was a committed canary fancier and during the breeding season he used to feed his broody birds chickweed. It was hard to find in the town but luckily chickweed grows in abundance around the edges of the fields and farms out in the vast countryside of the North East of England. It was up to the grandchildren to go out for the day and pick as much as they could carry. Cars were few and far between in those days but my grandfather had an old white Ford Anglia. Most of the time it was in bits on the driveway and everyone was tripping over his legs as they came out the front door, as he lived under it. Trying to start the aged engine or changing the fuel flow. The list went on.

One day the family were given permission by a land owner to pick chickweed just near Ravendale, a small Lincolnshire village. It was late in the Spring and that meant that chickweed would be be thriving out there. Grandad was already under the bonnet of his white wonder when the kids were waking up and the excitement of going out buzzed around the walls of the house. Nanna was in the kitchen preparing a beautiful basket for the back to nature banquet that they would all share for lunch. Grandfather Tilly would stay at the bird sheds drinking tea from the old tin pot and tending to the chirpy little chicks, anxiously waiting for his prized produce. He knew the benefits of feeding chickweed to his birds and this was just one of the tricks he had up his long sleeves. It’s like every breeder had their own repertoire of trusty techniques and costless customs that meant they were that little bit better than the rest.

So the family clambered into the conking car, clanking and clanging down the road as happy as the day they were born. On this particular occasion they found a massive row of raspberries and a ton of blackberries. Nanna would later make one of her famous pies again for them all to devour. The grandchildren had a great time frantically foraging through the foliage looking for their grandad’s chickweed. On the way back the eldest sister was even allowed to drive the car through the fields, though she never took it out of first gear. They all clung to each other as she drove straight over a big bump. Luckily the old thing cut out and after a rattle under the bonnet and a jingle of the keys they were off again on the way home. Smiles of relief worn proudly on their faces and excitement bubbling inside for their mother’s famous fruit pie. Full birds and full bellies for all.

  • Anne Hudson says:

    Love this and it is so true. I did drive the car around the field honking the horn as we neared the rest of the family who all stared open mouthed. Lovely memories xxx