Spiers and Boden were very, very good. They are at the top of their game musically, and by now are considerable showmen. The Systems Administrator's enthusiasm for morris tunes and jigs, played straight, is not unbounded, and by the interval had more or less been satisfied. Spiers and Boden ramped up the act in the second half, with more of their Bellowhead-honed panache, flavoured with klezmer, steam driven fairground organs, and I know not what world music influences, and we all went home happy. Spiers and Boden at full clatter are exhilarating, while still maintaining incredibly tight and precise timing, and when Jon Boden sings you can hear the words. Rare talent.
They are following a punishing touring system. I gather that Colchester was the third leg of the tour, and tonight they are playing Uffington in Oxfordshire, then they have a gig every night up to and including 28th April, finishing in Amsterdam. After a short break they are on the road again with a concert each evening from 9th to 25th May. Jon Boden has won more Radio 2 folk awards than any other musician, taking into account his wins as solo singer and as part of Bellowhead, as well as Spiers and Boden. He is a great singer, mean fiddler and accomplished guitarist, but some of his success must also be down to phenomenal drive and energy. John Spiers is a fine squeezebox player too, and always looks so happy to be on stage that you feel happy in sympathy just watching him.
(I noticed the straps on his concertina this time round, and it has loops he puts his hands through, so the weight is being taken by his whole hand and not just two digits. I couldn't see what make it was, though.)
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the chickens have taken up egg eating. So much for my scruples about not feeding them left over egg fried rice as being a form of cannibalism. I don't know if they are all equally guilty, or if there is a ring leader. The first egg may have been broken accidentally, but this lunchtime I heard loud thumping from the nesting box, and found a couple of them hammering at a recently laid egg with their beaks. It was still unbroken. Eggs are designed to be easy to pierce from the inside, not the outside. I don't even know if they only eat their own eggs, or if the guilty parties are lurking in wait for the others to lay and stealing their eggs. I first noticed it a couple of days ago, when I went to collect an egg that had been there earlier and it had gone, leaving suspicious residues on the sawdust. The Systems Administrator was under instructions yesterday to check the egg box at frequent intervals, while I was at work, and managed to collect two, so we may have lost one or two yesterday, and they had at least one today.
I think the textbook instruction to put a stop to it is to inject an egg with chilli powder and give it back to them. I suspect that is one of those bits of advice that are easier to write than to do. How exactly do you inject an egg with chilli, without smashing it? And is chilli powder good for chickens? What happens if they get it in their eyes? For now I changed the sawdust in the nesting box, and am hoping that if we remove the eggs promptly they will get out of the habit again. Giving a treat of sultanas or similar when unbroken eggs are collected might help reinforce a connection between not smashing eggs, and nice things to eat, but it is difficult to be sure about the cognitive capabilities of a chicken. Of course, from their point of view it is we who are the egg thieves, and since the eggs are now unfertilised they are pointless anyway, and might as well be eaten.