One of the great pleasures during the Great Lockdown of 2020 has been cycling to collect eggs. Such is the nature of lockdown that certain acts that were previously deemed something of a bind are now considered adventures to be relished. The hunter-gatherer attribute has been heightened by this era of pandemic and has brought a certain pride and dignity, especially to us fathers.

The journey from home to the free range egg farm is about a mile and a half and it must be undertaken earlyish in the morning, at around seven, to be sure of getting eggs. It’s uphill all the way there and you pass no other houses – just the entrance to another farm’s long driveway. It’s a ride conducted weekly and in all the weeks of lockdown I have passed just one human being on the road and she was sat up high on a grey mare – well over two metres between our two heads.

Collecting the eggs is simple enough. There is a timber shed on the egg farm which is unmanned. Inside the shed there is a metal honesty box and a pad of post-it notes. You pay your money, jot a note of thanks to the farmer which you stick to the shed wall and then you depart with your fresh eggs.

Yes, the journey home is all downhill but – with the eggs on a tray attached by elastic to a rear shelf on my bicycle – it is somewhat perilous. There are potholes to avoid as well as bumps and fallen branches to dodge. On one occasion the tray gave way in one corner as it was a defective tray. On another occasion some of the eggs decided to jump overboard even though the tray was sound. I tried putting another tray on as a roof but that ended up squashing a few eggs en route, so I gave up with that tactic. Mostly the tray does its job. I carry home thirty eggs for a fiver each week. They are often still warm from laying and are delicious – poached, fried, boiled or scrambled – while their orange yokes are so replete with nutrients as to render omelettes golden.  

Last week – the egg farm has been doing a roaring trade during the lockdown and perhaps he sought to profit maximise – the egg farmer got greedy. His trays now contain forty-two eggs and the price has risen accordingly. While this may suit him and other customers who show up in their cars, I am not prepared to give up on my weekly cycle to the egg farm – a ride which assists with my personal fitness and which I thoroughly enjoy.

On the first occasion when using the new tray I had the tray bend on the rear shelf of the bike, and I ended up having to put four eggs in my pockets and – after wiping one egg down with a baby wipe – one in my gob like some cardinal fish. I bought forty-two but returned home with thirty-seven and a sore jaw. Annoyingly, this week I lost another couple of eggs. The egg farmer’s shed walls are, for the first time, replete with angry post-its. I am hoping the egg farmer sees the error of his ways and reverts to trays of thirty.

Sitting in the garden during lockdown one finds time to think. Gin & tonics in the sunshine somewhat assist. And so it occurred to me that, like the right-sized trays for carrying many eggs, well-constructed nation states are the optimal vessels for carrying many citizens. Those suffering original or developed defects will always fold or suffer instabilities. A roof on citizens’ freedoms makes some break under pressure of confinement along the way – there will invariably be differences between individual eggs. Expanding that which worked well as it was – for the sake of it or out of greed – always ends sub-optimally. Good leadership – those who can steer round the obstacles in the road while carefully carrying the nation – tends to maximise dignity and happiness. Certainly it’s important not to muddle expansion with maximisation.

Roll on, Brexit.

Dominic Wightman is Editor of Country Squire Magazine.