It was me and after almost forty-five years it is probably time to ‘fess up’ to the disappearance of our family’s African Grey parrot. Time to admit to my role in liberating it from the living room of our South London flat.
Over the six months (I think) it was with us this bird became the bane of my life.
It was a battle of wits, between bird and human each time I had to clean out its cage, top up its feed or refill its water bowl. It was all about speed and dexterity. Was I always able to withdraw my hand quick enough to avoid being bitten? Not always. I really had to keep an eye on it else I’d end up with bloody fingers from its razor-sharp beak.
I quietly grew to hate that bird and started to dream up ways of getting rid of it.
Standing at eleven inches tall, I can see it now tracking my every move with its watchful eyes. It was intelligent I could tell, and I relied on this when planning and executing its liberation.
So, I bided my time and took the opportunity presented to me by a hot summers day and an open sash window.
It was one of those hot, sticky days during the long school holidays; me and my sister and a few others were playing outside by the bomb shelters around the back of the flats. We were probably messing around jumping off each shelter or deciding whether to head round to the front of the flats for a quick round of ‘Cannon’. In any case I needed the loo, so leaving my sister behind I ran around to the front to let myself into our empty flat.
I can’t remember what prompted me to go into the living room possibly a squawk from the parrot but as I poked my head in to look I noticed the sash window opposite the bird cage had been left slightly ajar. The important thing to note here, is that it wasn’t me. I was already framing how I would present myself if questioned. At the tender age of eleven I had decided which lie I might just get away with.
This was it, the opportunity I’d been waiting for, it was mid-afternoon and no one else was due home for at least an hour. This would give me plenty of time to set everything up and allow the bird enough time to make its escape.
All I needed to do was help the parrot along whilst covering my tracks. If I was clever enough it would look like the bird had escaped of its own accord through a series of ‘unfortunate events’😉.
Though I couldn’t be too long setting things up as I’d left my younger sister outside playing with friends.
The first thing I did was hitch up the sash window a little more to make sure the eleven-inch parrot could fit through the gap. True to form I could see it was watching me very closely. This was important for the next stage which was to loosen the clasp on its cage door, with the bird’s eyes on me I wanted it to see that it’s cage door wasn’t quite as it should have been.
I felt, this bird was more than capable of undoing the cage door if given a bit of help and encouragement and that was precisely what I intended to do. Once I’d taken care of the cage door and the window, all I needed to do was withdraw, making sure to close the living room door tightly behind me. I didn’t want an irritated African Grey flying around the rest of the flat.
And I certainly didn’t relish the thought of trying to recapture it. My sincere hope was that the intelligence I read in its gaze would be enough for it to realise how to fully open the cage door and make its way to freedom through the open window. All I was doing was smoothing the way.
The whole operation took no more than five minutes or so and I am pleased to say that it’s disappearance was discovered a few hours later, once we’d all gathered together in the evening. As I recall there was some discussion about the window being left open, but no one ever connected its disappearance with me.
Though I do sometimes wonder if mum had her suspicions and chose to keep them to herself. 😉
Until next time
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