During my visit to Kenya in March of this year, I was called back from Coast, where I had been staying with my significant other and children. I had intended spending Easter there, but business called.
So, on the Thursday before Good Friday, I had to visit the offices of a client in Nairobi, after which I had little to do for the next week or so.
As no one in my hosts' household smoked, I took to sitting on their step outside their compound to partake in my filthy habit. This caused a lot of curiosity amongst the estate's children (and quite a few adults) as this neighbourhod is off the beaten track as far as either tourists or white Kenyans are concerned. In fact, for some of the smaller children, I was the first mzungu they had seen close up.
So, there I was, on the step, puffing away and keeping an eye on my hosts' two girls, who are not normally allowed to play outside, but as I was there to keep and eye on them ...
A chicken was foraging along the pavement, then running for her life as the local kids chased it. When the kids got fed up, she would go back to foraging - until she was in front of me. She cocked her head to one side as she regarded me. At this point a little boy decided to throw a stone at her and he was a pretty good shot. The chicken squawked and ran towards me.
To my surprise, she jumped up onto my step and roosted beside me, really pressed up against me like a puppy or kitten might. This amused the children and they all gathered round to see what the strange mzungu - or the chicken - would do.
I didn't know what to do, so I started to stroke her head, then her wings. Now, I don't particularly like birds. It's the feathers, I think. I like to look at them, I am fascinated when the starlings make wonderful patterns in the sky, but I do not like to touch them.
So, there I was, sitting on a step, stroking a chicken! And surrounded by the neighbourhood kids - lots of them, and the chicken was making cooing noises, which I took to be contentment, although she could have been telling the kids that chased her that she had won this particular round. I don't know. I don't speak chicken.
But my strategy worked. A little boy sat the other side of the chicken and started to stroke her gently. Then the other kids joined in, and the chicken seemed to be enjoying this unprecedented, non-violent attention.
That is until the kid from next door came out and said, "That's where you are. Sir, this is our dinner for tonight!"
Happily, the chicken did not speak English. But I bet she was one of the happier chickens to meet her maker.