Strangely enough I was terrified of feathers as a child every visit to my uncle's farm in Buckinghamshire left me forever grateful that every last one of the hens were safely behind bars. The noise alone on entering the sheds would have driven any tartan army into immediate retreat. In 1961 we had moved down from our thousand acre hill farm on the Mull of Kintyre to a cottage with three acres in Glostershire. My father decided the only thing to do on our restricted plot was a few pigs and battery hens. My heart sank since I realized sooner or later I would be asked to help out. Sure enough the day arrived when de-beaking had to be done, a soldering iron was pressed up against the birds beak and melted to prevent them from pecking each other while squashed three or more to a cage. The smell of burning was appalling and it was my job to hold the bird still. I lasted less than half an hour and when yet another bird broke loose flapping in terror my irrational fear overwhelmed me and I ran from the barn much to my brothers amusement. There seemed no limit to the cruelty one could inflict on battery hens at that period when everything was seen as simply another justifiable step forward in modern farming techniques and food production.
Today my evenings are filled with feathers and fluff as I work away on the kitchen table gluing the smallest of brightly coloured plumage to my imaginary birds. From freshly plucked road kill I am able to create fantasy feather birds that have never and will never exist. The discarded feather another one of natures detritus which would otherwise have rotted is turned into something that merits a second look.