The No Show Man
(This article first appeared in the June 2013 edition of ‘Birdwatching’)
A week or two back I looked out to see seven Ring-necked Parakeets on my washing line. They may not belong in the UK, but they certainly belong on my washing line. We hang out apples for them; clothes have to hang out on radiators.
One male was biting lumps out of an apple. He was also biting lumps out of any other parakeet that tried to eat his apples. This alpha male had his soft side. Alf was feeding chunks of apple to Annie, the next parakeet in line.
Generally parrots are fastidious eaters; they nibble at what they bite off and shed the peel as deftly as a surgeon’s scalpel shaves an Adam’s apple in a gender re-assignment operation. Beneath the apples the tiny peel pieces pile up on the paving.
Doves are only one step below parrots on the phylogenetic scale. They too can find a living in a vast variety of habitats. Doves, however, lack charisma. Parrots look clever and alert. Doves look dopy and dozy. The doves sort through the peel pile hoping that a decent bit of apple flesh may have dropped from the parrots’ table.
Alf took his eye off the ball and Bill tried to oust him from the apples. All hell broke loose as Alf pecked at Bill, Bill flew back into Charlie and Betty and the whole troop took off in all directions.
Dozy Doves are so successful because they freak out at anything that might be a predator. When the parrots scattered the spooked doves panicked.
They too flew every which way, but one way was the window of the garden shed. Dicky, the doziest dove, left a perfect outline on the glass in dove dust. He sat a while, dazed in the dianthus, blinking before shaking his head, ruffling his feathers and flying off.
I’ve always considered myself more parrot than pigeon. I feel at home in an Indian woodland and I don’t eat meat. Now I’m not so sure.
We stayed in a hotel by the airport to catch the early flight. I rose early and purred in the warm water of the shower. There was a seemingly predatory incident when the shower suddenly went cold then boiled a split second later. I leapt away and crashed into the tiles leaving a perfect outline in Bo suds. My head sought out and found the only available danger – the sharp corner of the toiletry basket. I slumped some seconds. I slipped down the rabbit hole then out into the light barely retaining consciousness. I exited the cubicle.
The warm water running down my face wasn’t! It was a red liquid better kept inside my inner tubes. I awkwardly dried myself while clamping a towel to my throbbing head. Despite my improvised pressure bandage the gore gushed on. I felt a momentary pang of regret for the laundry, as the pristine white was painted pink.
I pulled on my pants and rang reception asking for a sticking plaster.
A response team arrived at my door armed with bright blue first aid. I took a handful. An ambulance was offered and declined. A concussion discussion followed.
This year has been the worst in my life including bereavement too painful to share. It has left me emotionally fragile. Maybe the physical trauma was worse than I thought, maybe it was the fragility, but I could not stop shaking, like a frightened bird in the hand.
I spent some hours with a blue cross on my forehead… either a target for poking fun at, or a heavily discounted item in the department store sale. Maggie opined that the gash needed stitching. I’ve seen her sew up a skirt hem as even as a pot-holed road. I declined the offer.
Now I look like Harry Potter’s Half Brother with a gash in my forehead marking me out as the survivor of a freak shower accident. I’ve looked at the statistics for accidents in the home. Shower hospitalisations are almost as common as bizarre trousers incidents, which are surprisingly close to the top of the list.
We missed the flight; we lost the fare money and the cost of the hotels in Scotland. More important I’ve probably lost friends. I’ve certainly lost face; figuratively and literally.
I went from a showman to the no-show man because I am a dozy dove not a clever boy.
When I got home two swifts screamed over my house and flew north dragging the season with them. One swallow may not make a summer, but one swift will do it.
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