I was diverted for about twenty seconds this morning by this story from the BBC News website, which tells of a live hen being thrown at staff in a branch of KFC in Nuneaton.
No reference is made to the motivation of the perpetrators. Presumably some point about animal rights was being made, though a pretty cack-handed one, given the panic that the poor hen must have felt. I can’t help wondering whether the chief motivating factor may simply have been the malaise that comes from living in Nuneaton, which is not the most prepossessing town in Britain. I’m not in much of a position to talk, having spent only about half an hour there, and that at the station while waiting for a bus to Coventry, but my memories of the station facilities at least are not positive. George Eliot grew up near Nuneaton but succeeded in escaping (albeit only to Coventry) when she was 21. Perhaps an analogy may be made with the tribulation Dorothea Brooke endures in Middlemarch before finding happiness.
But enough of insulting places I’ve never visited. People are proud and protective of their home towns, and I have no intention of digging myself into a hole big enough to warrant a Boris Johnson-style apology to the people of Nuneaton. (Especially to the people of Nuneaton.)
Anyway, the article concludes by reporting that the RSPCA have named the hen Mrs Sanders. This is evidently a reference to Colonel Sanders (1890-1980), the founder and grinning totem of KFC, whom until today I had for some reason assumed to be a fictional character. The fact of his existence somehow makes KFC harder to take. While he was a made-up person – his head might plausibly have been designed from the rearranged parts of a chicken – he seemed harmless; now, he is the cause of all the evil visited on the earth by KFC. Not that I can judge KFC from any position of authority either. I’ve only been compelled to use its services on one occasion, and that was at Manchester Piccadilly railway station when all other facilities were closed or otherwise unavailable.
I first read ‘Mrs Sanders’ as ‘Mrs Saunders’, and didn’t make the connection with the ubiquitous Colonel. How nice, I thought. An unusual name, but a resonant one. The same cats’ and dogs’ names come up time after time, but you so rarely encounter one given a prosaic, human appellation like Dave or Mr Reynolds. Almost worth having a pet just so you can give it an interesting name. Or a baby. If only the responsibility didn’t put me off.
But here’s an idea. You can call animals whatever you like as long as they don’t have names already. You don’t have to own them first. So I have decided to name a pigeon I met earlier this week Mrs Saunders. The circumstances were not non-Nuneatonian. On Monday I was having lunch in the Cambridge branch of Eat, minding my own business, when a pigeon burst in through the door. You’ve guessed it: it was Mrs Saunders, though I didn’t realise it at the time. She was rather upset to find herself in an enclosed space and began batting herself against the window in an attempt to get out. The thing about Mrs Saunders is that she’s lovely once you know her, but there’s not much going on in the old brain department. She’d be the first to admit it, if only she realised. So on she went, attacking the window and not making much progress. I was happy to keep my distance and observe her, until I realised my own proximity to the window made me a prime target for post-collisional flapback. Sure enough, in a matter of seconds I found myself fending off a vicious wing to the face. Things might have turned nasty without some swift action, and I was about to suggest laying a trail of crisps to lure her back outside, when a kindly member of staff succeeded in grabbing her while her attention was elsewhere and depositing her on the pavement, where she footled around embarrassedly as the diners around her looked on with a certain admiration. I left a few minutes later, and she didn’t appear to pick up on my hints that she should follow me for further adventures, but something tells me I’ll be meeting her again.