No this is not about a game that to win involves standing in front of a herd of rampaging camels until, at the last possible moment, diving out of the way.
Instead it is a memory of something my grandfather used to talk about years ago when I was very young and impressionable being it was before I even went to primary school.
I was cleaning out the kitchen cupboard the other day when right at the back I came across a tin of corned beef that must had laid there un-molested for years. I can’t even remember the last time I opened a can of corned beef but what I can remember is the trauma of actually carrying out the act, twisting the key around the lid in the hope it wouldn’t snap off meaning I had to resort to using an oxy-acetelene torch to open the can.
Then there was the act of content retrieval and can disposal after opening which normally saw at least one finger partially severed – the edge of a corned beef can is definitely the sharpest substance known to man and alongside a paper cut the worst possible painful injury you can suffer from. Perhaps the thought of that trauma was why the can was still sitting there like the unexploded bomb it was ?
I can recollect that my family used to have a meal of corned beef stew when I was a child but based on the danger it presents I have no idea how such a tin ended up in our cupboard (most people get money or property…perhaps my inheritance was purely food based !). I don’t remember ever consciously buying it. A fact I found out years ago when I moved away from the parental dominion was that cubes of real beef are much more succulent – maybe though the use from time to time of things such as a corned beef substitute was one main reason my parents always appeared to have money and I never seem to (but using this surplus money buying up even larger stocks of the aforementioned foodstuff to pass on to their kids is as far as I’m concerned a travesty of the largest sort).
So anyway… why the post title … well apparently during the Second World War in the Africa campaign (El Alamein and all that) real meat was in such short supply the soldier’s rations consisted instead of tins of ‘Bully Beef‘ or Corned Beef to you and me and this somehow got labeled as ‘Desert Chicken’ – why I have no idea but that name has stuck with me since I was a lad and was told about it by my grandfather and since then I never know it as anything different.
The one thing that puzzled me for years was not so much why he ever referred to it as this, but how indeed he ever came across ‘Desert Chicken’ at all as from what I believed he never served in the Army but I was sure he was actually in the Navy !
I never got to ask my grandfather before he passed away but it finally made sense years later when it cropped up in conversation. At five years old what branch of the armed services I thought he was in when he was talking about the vessel that carried him about was just a big assumption – he’d actually apparently told me on several occasions that sometimes the only way to get about was on a ‘Ship Of The Desert’.
Maybe therefore my initial statement was wrong and I am closer than I first thought with the post title and a game he may have played after all !