Why so many?
Don't get me wrong, I'm a full convert to Londoner's love of all things fowl. Having a KFC on the end of Clapham Manor Street doesn't help. It's hard to resist the deeply disturbing but somehow infinitely appealing smell, particularly after a few beers. Those mini fillet burgers are a nightmare. I bought two the other day on the way back from the supermarket, on my way home to cook a chicken dinner. There's no need for that, really.
Although I frequently blame its convenience, thinking about it, it's not even the nearest restaurant to me. There's a lovely looking tapas place right next door, but I've never once had a conversation with my flatmate about going. Next door! Instead we opt for Tower Zinger Burgers whenever the supermarket's shut, or when we're hungover and get that universal feeling that because we've drunk ourselves stupid the night before we've earnt the right to eat crap. It's not right.
And my local chicken emporium certainly isn't the nicest place to spend time. After about 11 at night it fills up with groups of drunken young people, all of us overwhelmed by profound cravings for whatever that stuff is they put on their wings.
The chips are truly, truly horrible. They don't put ice in their cokes. It's brighter than the sun in there. But still we go.
Their dining area (or The Colonel's Chill Out Lounge as weve dubbed it) is probably the most depressing place in the entire world. The other day I saw someone get locked in it when they pulled down the steel shutters. They'd warned him several times that they were closing it, but he obviously couldn't muster the energy to move (or, seemingly, the will to live). He just looked up for a second, glum, looked back down at his food and put another chip in his mouth. I had to get away immediately and sprinted home. It was the most depressing thing I've ever seen.
Apart from maybe the other night, when I saw a drunk bloke trying to get the girl behind the counter's number, although at least that made me feel slightly better about my lack of company that night. It wasn't even that she wasn't the most attractive or slight woman in the world, it was the fact that he didn't think it inappropriate to lurch over the counter, dribbling down his tie, slurring a 'yourighdarlin' and go for a kiss when she handed him his popcorn chicken. Dear Lord, in an future state of inebriation, please always remind me that going home alone really isn't the end of the world. Whereas trying to pull in KFC almost certainly is.
Anyway, despite all this, literally millions of us visit such shops (whether it's KFC or Cheeky Chicken or Chicken King or Chickens-R-Us or whatever your local variety) every night. While the other half of London is smugly tucked up in bed with their partner, we console ourselves in paltry poultry; immerse ourselves in grease and colourants. You might have good pyjamas and someone to rely on emotionally, but can you eat six chicken wings at three in the morning without anyone trying to stop you? Nope. I can.
Sometimes I get caught thinking about all the chickens that need to be bred in order to stock all these shops. Think about the most amount of chickens you've ever seen in your life and multiply it by a million and you're not even close. Imagine that! Millions and millions of them clucking about, pecking at stuff and generally being silly as chickens are want to. Then: bam! Their necks are broken, they're shaved, mechanically reclaimed (whatever that means, I don't want to know), covered in breadcrumbs and too much ketchup and served to drunken, single men. It's enough you want to become a vegetarian.
Add them together to all the chickens that stock all the supermarkets in this town, and you're talking about a lot of chickens. Think about all the neatly lined up, shrink wrapped chicken breasts that stretch along the aisles of both Sainsbury's on Clapham High Street. It doesn't add up. Theyre simply can't be enough chickens in the world.
I have calculated that to stock all the chicken shops and supermarkets in London alone, you would need a battery farm the size of Scotland and most of the North of England. And making an effort to adopt another of London's least charming traits, one of total disdain for anything that happens north of Watford, I can only presume this is what the colder half of this island is for. Breeding millions and millions and millions of chickens to satisfy The Colonel and his various imitators.
I'm not sure all this is worth writing down really, let alone publishing on the internet, but I just can't get that image of millions and millions of chickens out my head. Imagine that! You've got to admit, its quite an image.
Maybe this is how Linda McCartney started out. And look where it got her. Damn my powerful imagery!