And don’t let that bloody bird bite you! warned House Owner as the family left for its holidays yesterday.
She’d been quite adamant about the parrot and its general hatred of humankind. There’s not a chance of me trying to befriend the thing now, animal lover or not. No, House Owners have shown me how to feed it by taking its dish out of a side bit of the cage – sort of like how you’d feed a cannibal in a prison cell. Slide the food through the slot and keep your liver. The parrot and I shall have minimal contact, I’ve decided. I talked to it as I was making my dinner. Politely, you know – friendly conversation. I told it what I was cooking, and it did a superb impression of a computer’s ‘error’ message warning tone. Familiar language – we were getting along quite well, I thought.
Then I walked back past the cage to put my plate in the dishwasher, and saw the bird sitting on top of said cage.
Wait, I said suddenly, staring intently at it, you weren’t there before. How did you get out? It looked smugly at me. Apparently the parrot can open its cage all by itself. Clever.
Throw a towel over it, House Owner had advised on the subject of parrot catching. It can’t bite you any more, that way.
The parrot wouldn’t bite me. I love animals, and animals love me. We have a bond. There was no way I was throwing a towel over the poor thing’s head. Here, Parrot! I crooned softly, edging up to it with a sunflower seed. It stared benevolently at me and I gained confidence. Good parrot! I added reassuringly, sidling over. It knocked the seed out of my hand, caught hold of my finger, and squawked loudly.
Argh! I shrieked, trying to salvage some of my finger. Get off me, you vicious monster!
I retrieved a towel from the bathroom and, sucking the blood from my finger, crept nervously towards the scary bird. It attacked the towel somewhat aggressively. No amount of gentle reasoning would persuade it to get into the cage, and now the dog was starting to bark because I’d locked it in the room with us in the fear that the parrot would make a bid for freedom out of the back door.
Unable to console myself at having failed so immediately at housesitting, I retreated to the garden with champagne and dog, and sat there wondering how many mosquitoes would bite me if I slept by the pool.
Hayley? I jumped violently, honestly thinking that the bird had followed me out and was taunting me from the side of the house, but it turned out to be two teenage boys, friends of the family children, whom I’d met earlier. They were calling in on their way past to check that I was OK and see if I needed directions to anywhere. With some miming and simplified English, I explained the parrot situation, and they leapt into boyish action. Of course, when we went inside, the bird was sitting innocently in its cage. One of the boys closed the cage door, and looked questioningly at me.
Erm… thanks, I said, feeling a little foolish. They left, grinning and talking in Dutch. It’s not too hard to take a decent enough guess at the type of things they were saying. I suspect that they’ll be back to check on me every few hours, as, let’s face it, I would clearly not survive for very long if left to my own devices…