Stories in Isolation: The Great Chicken Heist of ’67

In March 2020, my partner, Stephen, became seriously ill with Covid. We shut ourselves off from the world and each other, only opening our respective doors for food and medicine. Four miserable months later, we emerged with a host of physical and mental health difficulties in tow. My memory of those sixteen weeks in isolation is patchy at best, and the moments I do recall are shrouded in darkness, as if they occurred late at night or deep underground.

Most of my memories are murky, that is, but not all of them. As always, the stories I encountered during that time still shine bright enough to pierce the gloom. But unusually. they were not the fictional stories from my books; I could not concentrate for long enough to reap the rewards of reading. No, these stories were shared during late night phone calls, drunken Zoom sessions, and conversations bellowed across the street.

These stories lifted the darkness momentarily by transporting me through space and time to worlds in which the words ‘self-isolation’ and ‘pandemic’ were reserved for apocalyptic narratives. They were a lifeline when I was incapable of verbal communication but desperately needed human contact, and a distraction from the demons stirring in the recesses of my increasingly melancholic mind.

What follows is the first of three stories that I will be sharing. While I have injected some creative flair, the events depicted in each are genuine and historical details have been checked where possible. The stories have been taken from a collection of creative nonfiction essays in which I share my lived experience with mental health difficulties: to find out more about this work-in-progress, please see my About Me post.

Do you have a story you would like help sharing? Please feel free to contact me to arrange a chat.

Enjoy reading, let me know what you think, and don’t forget to check back here tomorrow at the same time for the second story!


Photograph by Klaus Nielson. Stamp, text, and editing by Lydia Ruth Martin.

‘I watched from the safety of my tree as ‘Arry tiptoed across the moonlit farmyard towards the hen house. Apart from the occasional scratching sound, all was quiet.

He reached the door with a triumphant thumbs up over his shoulder and fumbled around in the shadows. The latch screamed its protestations as ‘Arry raised it from its resting place.

We both glanced nervously at the main house. Nothing stirred, although I could hear ‘Arry’s stifled giggles emanating from behind the hand he’d stuffed into his mouth.

Deeming it safe to continue, he edged the door open, revealing a gaping hole of blackness that engulfed his body as he moved into it. For a second or two there was silence. Then –


The lights in the main house flickered on, illuminating the front of the hen house in full technicolour display. I slithered down my tree as ‘Arry ejected himself from the coop at top speed, indignant hen clutched under his right arm.

“Told you we could have fresh eggs in the morning!”’

Dad becomes animated when reminiscing about his hitchhiking days through Europe: he leans forward in his green Chesterfield armchair (found in the depths of a skip, in true Dad style), only pausing his wild gesticulations to refill his mug from the cafetiere balanced on the log burner.

We’ve learned not to sit too close to Dad when he’s in the grip of sweet nostalgia; it’s not uncommon for lukewarm dregs to slosh over everything in his immediate vicinity.

But the country is now in lockdown and Dad must relay the Infamous Chicken Heist of ’67 over the phone.


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