Replay – Drunk chickens, by guest author, Mary Smith

I was very glad to hand over the blog to writer Mary Smith. Mary had just released a new book, “Dumfries Through Time” in collaboration with landscape photographer, Allan Devlin.  However, it was the title of her book, “Drunk chickens and Burnt Macaroni” that caught my attention as soon as I saw it. Although the title is a definite eye-catcher, it does not prepare you for the story within its pages. At some point, whilst reading the tales of the courageous women she encountered during her time in Afghanistan, you begin to realise that the narrator herself is an extraordinary woman…

Just after this articale went out, there was an excellent review of No More Mulberries posted by Lizanne Lloyd.

Nick's chick

I was very excited when Sue invited me to write a guest post but the moment I agreed my mind went blank. You know that feeling when all the interesting, clever things you’d thought you might blog about simply disappear?

“You could always start with Drunk Chickens,” she said. Okay, I’ll do something about Drunk Chickens, I thought. Then, she emailed: “But you don’t have to. You can write about anything.”

Of course, by then the only thing in my head was an image of chickens – drunken ones – and it wouldn’t leave so I’m going to stay with it. I don’t want to talk so much about the chickens but about how our paths came to cross. How do we end up where we are when we’d never planned it? I found myself looking for the decisions or events – either momentous or seemingly insignificant – which led to a Scots woman living in Lancashire ending up in Afghanistan with those chickens. Not only meeting them, but getting them very drunk on Uzbek wine and then – vegetarians look away now – eating them.


Oddly enough, one link is alcohol. If I hadn’t had two whiskies (okay it was maybe four but in England pub measures are small) one evening while watching an away snooker match I wouldn’t have gone to Pakistan. The driver of our mini-bus was going to drive to Pakistan and I got all enthusiastic when he asked if I’d like to share the driving. Unfortunately, the journey would have taken so long I’d have hardly any time actually in the country before having to fly back for work. I worked for Oxfam in those days. One of the snooker team heard our conversation and told me his wife and her sister were going home, to Karachi in Pakistan, to visit their family – I could go with them if I wanted.

I have to admit Pakistan was not high on my list of countries I most wanted to visit – hadn’t even considered it, in fact but, suddenly, I knew why I had signed up for Urdu classes a few weeks before!

Off I went, with two somewhat baffled but extremely hospitable women and assorted children. I immediately fell in love with Karachi. Armed with introductions from Oxfam, which part funded it, I went to visit the leprosy centre. I was immediately whisked off by the social workers to see how they provide loans to leprosy patients to set up small businesses and I spent a day in the hospital. In my diary I wrote: “I don’t know how or when, but I do know I am coming back here.”


The centre was looking for someone to establish a health education department and the very charismatic German nun, Dr Pfau suggested I stay on to set it up. They would provide the leprosy training I required. I said no. However, when I came home I couldn’t settle and eventually sent in an application feeling sure by then the job would have gone. It hadn’t. They wrote to say they would like me to come back as soon as possible. I handed in my notice and flew back to Pakistan with a three-year contract which paid peanuts. Before I left, the Oxfam field officer said: “Of course, Afghanistan is right next door.” I ignored him. The Soviets were still there.

The job was far from easy to begin with, though I was always happy being in Pakistan. I met lots of Afghans who had come to Pakistan as refugees and before long I had a ‘family’ of young students who were training as paramedics specialising in leprosy and tuberculosis. I helped them with English lessons, revising for their medical exams and we explored Karachi together. They loved to talk about their homeland and by the end of my contract I knew I was going to visit that country ‘right next door’. The Soviets left a few months before I crossed the border. I can’t claim any credit for this.


And so began the Afghan years. I set up a small mother and child health project, training village women as health volunteers. Part of my time was spent in remote rural areas part in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif and it was there I got the chickens drunk. Why?

Well, in Afghanistan no one kills a chicken until it’s no longer laying and is a pretty tough old bird. Two hours in a pressure cooker and they still come out like leather. The wine tenderizes them from the inside and for the last few days of their lives they are very, very happy hens.

And here’s another strange connection. I picked up this tip from the Guardian Weekly, to which expats all over the world subscribe, in its ‘Letters From’ feature by someone who worked in Africa. They had solved a very tough turkey problem this way. I sent in a ‘Letter From’ article – and so began a career as a freelance journalist, which I needed because when I came back to the UK there were not many jobs for leprosy workers.

Mary SmithBiography and Books

Mary Smith was born on Islay, grew up in Dumfries & Galloway and worked for Oxfam in Lancashire for ten years. After this, she spent the next ten years working in Pakistan and Afghanistan, firstly for the Pakistan Leprosy Control Programme based in Karachi followed by establishing a mother and child health care project in the Hazara Jat region of Afghanistan and the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif.
After returning to Scotland she worked as a freelance journalist while writing, Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni (revised and updated, originally published as Before The Taliban: Living with War, Hoping for Peace.) This narrative non-fiction account of her time in Afghnaistan lets the reader meet some of the ordinary Afghan women and their families with whom Mary worked.
Her second book, No More Mulberries, also set in Afghanistan is her debut novel.
Mary’s years in Afghanistan – often working in remote rural areas – allows her to bring a high degree of authenticity to her work.
Mary Smith is now a journalist with Dumfries & Galloway Life magazine while working on her second novel.


Mary has also just released a new book, “Dumfries Through Time”, with landscape photographer Allan Devlin.

She is one of the writers on the blog Novel Points of View. For more information on Mary’s journalism, poetry and other projects visit her website at

You can also find Mary on Twitter @marysmithwriter, Google+ and Youtube

Mary’s books are available via Amazon, Waterstones, W. H. Smith and other bookshops.

About Sue Vincent

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire-born writer and one of the Directors of The Silent Eye, a modern Mystery School. She writes alone and with Stuart France, exploring ancient myths, the mysterious landscape of Albion and the inner journey of the soul. Find out more at France and Vincent. She is owned by a small dog who also blogs. Follow her at and on Twitter @SCVincent. Find her books on Goodreads and follow her on Amazon worldwide to find out about new releases and offers. Email:
This entry was posted in adventure, Blogging, Books, fiction, Guest post, writing and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to Replay – Drunk chickens, by guest author, Mary Smith

  1. realshady007 says:

    That’s one Drunk Cock.. 😉 If you know,what I mean…. xD


  2. blondieaka says:

    Ha Ha now I know how to tenderise the skinny chooks here and make their final days happy ones so we’ll all be winners..yehhh way to go! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Interesting story of an exceptional woman. Her books sound like good reads. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Mary Smith says:

    Thanks so much for letting me ramble here, Sue. I hadn’t expected the post to appear at the speed of lightning! That chicken looks remarkably like the ones in Afghanistan after half a bottle of Uzbek red.


  5. Reblogged this on Barrow Blogs: and commented:
    This is a fascinating post. Thank you, Sue and Mary.Jx

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pssst – Sue – the Twitter link goes to Google+ and the Google+ link goes to YouTube.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I thoroughly enjoyed both books.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. This is a funny, wonderful guest post! OK, you got me. Will be downloading your book(s)!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Mary Smith says:

    Thanks so much for reposting this, Sue.


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