Attempting to make it as a writer

Posts tagged ‘cockatiel’


Reg our cockatiel has finally passed on.  It was a sad morning when we arrived downstairs to find the little body supine with rigor mortis on the bottom of the cage.  Mini son who had become attached to the grumpy old bird was distraught; first with the loss and then guilt that he had not been feeding him enough.   (I had in fact been topping up when I thought mini son had forgotten or with water on hot days, so maybe, the bird had been overfed and it was my fault!)

We acquired Reg in rather different circumstances than you might imagine.  I returned home some years ago


to be told we now had a bird.  Expecting a homing pigeon or robin with a broken wing I peered under the lid of the shoebox to see trembling in the corner a small grey bundle of feathers and fury spitting angrily at the injustices of being caught.  I was told how it had been flying around all day, landing on our garage, on the fence at the back of the garden and down near the rabbits.   As  the children approached, it flew off only to return a few minutes later.  Despite the children and their noisy friends playing and chasing the poor bird, it continued returning to the mayhem.

As the day wore on the bird whistled angrily at them, ventured closer, never too near to be caught.   Finally it had flown into the garage and perched exhausted on a dresser at the back.  A path through the cluttered garage was cleared and the bird approached tentatively.  Any hand held out was pecked at viciously.  Brave and fearless Sexy Sporty Dad was called upon to retrieve the now exhausted bird.   Despite several attempts to attack the restrictive hands the bird allowed himself to be caught.

By the time I arrived home Middle Son had already acquired a small handful of food for the bird from friends who owned love birds.    We tried to identify the tiny bird; grey feathers all over his back with strips of white down his wings.  A little yellow face had two very distinctive red spots on his cheeks hence he had already been named Reg to tie in with red.   Later I discovered these are actually orange in colour but he was Reg for ever more.  The most striking feature was the tuft of yellow feathers on his head.

The bird was shaking and spitting but had no real fight left in him.  I was convinced it had flown into the dark garage to be left alone and die as wild creatures have a tendency to do.  Later that evening a knock on the door revealed just a bird cage.  My enterprising Middle Son, had been around the estate before my return asking if people had a cage.  He had been directed to the house of someone I knew through school vaguely.  The girl at the house told him they did have a cage and later left it on our doorstep.  Months after, I ran into her mother who was a little surprised at my thanks; a few days later the stand for the cage was delivered for me at school.  She apparently had no idea we’d had the cage and now wanted the stand out of the loft as well.

An unhappy and trembling Reg was placed in the newly cleaned and fresh cage with water and food overnight.   Tomorrow if he survived, I would locate the owner and return him, much to the dismay of my children.    Reg did survive but I never found the owner.

I did try, and I tried hard.  I made posters leaving them all round town.  I put them up at the vets who would listen out for anyone lamenting the loss of their bird.  I handed in a poster to the pet food shop in town, who told me it was a cockatiel and sold me a small amount of food to keep going along with a book on cockatiel care.  She also gave me some toys from a stack of old stock for him to play with.  I also trawled the internet and discovered a weekly magazine devoted to bird care in which I placed a notice saying that we had found one, whether it ever got printed I do not know.

I had only one reply saying “her friend had lost a very valuable parakeet and this must be it, could she come and pick it up”.  When I quizzed the lady in question she seemed reluctant to say any more and she was even less knowledgeable about birds than I was. I suggested the friend call if she thought the bird was hers.  I heard nothing.

Reg soon became part of the family.  We believe after watching his behaviour particularly in those early days, that he had not been treated as well as he might.  He certainly did not like Sexy Sporty Dad or Middle Son who’s voice was becoming nearly as deep as his fathers.    He would back up in the cage and spit if he heard their voices.   He tolerated me, Mini Son and initially No 1 Son.    It became apparent very early on that he was very grumpy and would not allow us any contact with him.  Not what it says in the books about them being very friendly birds and easy to look after.

They are described as sociable birds and live in groups in the wild so I was worn down by the constant demands of three caring children that he was lonely during the day.  I sucummed in the end or I would have had to allow them to take it in turns to stay at home during the day not sure the schools would have been quite so understanding.   We acquired Summer, a young female who had already been trained to come out of the cage and fly around the room and then hop on to your hand and go back.   They became quite attached to each other and although it took a long time before we allowed them in the same cage they would yell the house down if one was out of sight.  Reg did not pick up on any of her tameness and could not be trained to allow us near, which made us think he was on the older side, young birds are trained easily.  One morning after 6 months or so of living together Summer developed a chill or cold of some kind and I arranged to take her to the vets in the afternoon.  She did not make it through the morning and the appointment had to be cancelled.

Reg went downhill very fast after that.  He would not sing, warble or even whistle, he seemed even more grumpy than usual.  It took less convincing this time that he needed a friend.   We allowed him some grief time; giving us a chance to know he did not have the same chill as Summer before I was dispatched to purchase a new bird.

Peaches arrived having been removed from a cage of siblings so was already used to having company, but we slowly introduced her.    It did not take them long for the alpha male to be replaced by the alpha female.  It was Reg who was henpecked in this relationship.

Peaches and Reg had some humdingers of arguments but they hated it when separated.  We did for Reg’s sake keep them next to each other in different cages.  It was while we were on holiday some months later that Natty my neighbour rang to say Peaches had died in the night and the only explanation we could find was that we had had one of the very few mini heatwaves and it had all been too much for her.

Reg missed her but after a week or so he began to come out of his reclused state and started joining in conversation at table, more often than not taking over as we could not be heard.  He loved company in the form of humans talking to him and he would warble back.  He flourished on attention and attitude.  He actually made a good companion to complain to as he never answered back or if he did it was automatically what you wanted or needed to hear.  Middle son began feeding him from his hand without pecking and he would come to the edge of the cage and whistle if he thought I was ignoring him.

Reg’s noise and high pitched notice grabbing squeak became as normal as the children fighting over the last potato, or squabbling to watch their chosen channel on the TV.   He developed a method of calling to me and sitting on the feed tray if he was hungry or thirsty, as soon as I approached he would hop of so we didn’t brush together as I removed it.   If I didn’t see or answer his needs he would continue, the volume going up in decibels till I did.  Once satiated, he would whistle his thanks and expect me to attempt to whistle the same tune back.  It delighted him to chat in this way; he would whistle and I had to copy his chords.  My whistling is bad at the best of times so Reg would whistle more and more complex notes and he would always win with a final little song of such triumphant difficulty I learnt to accept defeat quickly and graciously.

The other morning I came down to start work and there was no little birdsong to greet me.  I could hear the dawn chorus outside but the cage was not responding.   Reg was on his way to meet Summer and Peaches and live out eternity in bird heaven.

I am selling the cages, so the temptation does not have the convenience of already having…….

Sad times but we feel he had a good end of life.



Check out and see what I am cooking up this week on Teatime Treats with Tiggy


Fighting Felines

My garden is a permanent battle ground for local cats at the moment. I was tolerant but since the demise of Tetley last summer, who had the monopoly on my garden; the neighbourhood moggy population has decided that I am fair game.  Well game on moggies because I am fighting back.

Now don’t get me wrong I am not against pets and realise for many people they can be life enhancing companions.  However they are not for me.  We have two rabbits Magic and her son Smudge whose lives are so boring and non functional that you have to question their raison d’etre.  Once in a while they escape and have a fun packed day in our garden feeding off my herbs and vegetables.   Not unlike Mrs McGregor I threaten to put them in the pot ready stuffed with herbs.

Of course, despite my antipathy towards them I could not serve them up in a stew.  I have eaten and cooked rabbit, as a child helped rear poultry for food and I am happy to coo and admire my sister’s pigs and lambs before buying said meat from her and producing wonderful family meals.  My self sufficiency does not really extend to putting the family pets in the pot whatever havoc they may have wreaked upon my barely budding beans and prolific parsley plants.

We also have Reg; the cockatiel, who is a story in his own right and one day I will embellish liberally on Reg and his exploits.   He thrives on human company having moments of self expression when he sings and talks incessantly.  Thankfully the effort for him is short lived leaving him exhausted and in need of yet another nap.

I have entertained the idea of a puppy in the house on many occasions; it could be a deterrent for the faction of felines defecating in my herb garden.   Three children would be delighted at the arrival of a tiny bundle of mischievous fur with their promises to look after it and walk it, clear up after it etc.    I, generously would give it a week before I was walking it and maybe not that long before I was the one clearing up the little packages left whilst we were asleep or at work.    Not to mention the chewed shoes and ripped clothes left lying around by teenage boys.

I cannot even begin to imagine the attraction of getting up in the rain and snow and embarking on a trek across the fields with nappy sack in hand.   On a particularly cold morning I guess the warmth of the filled nappy sack could potentially have benefits but one I struggle to accept.  When I have my mansion with suitable area of garden for dogs to run and do their business, I may reconsider my feelings towards muts in general.  For now my home and already cluttered life remains resiliently puppy free.

The same cannot be said for cats.   They come in to my garden uninvited and use it as a public meeting place watching the rabbits for signs of escape so they can enjoy a well fed tasty takeaway.   They sit at the conservatory window , their eyes transfixed on Reg, waiting for the door to be left ajar so they can sneak up against his cage salivating.   They use my ornate bath herb garden for their toileting habits and are not in the least bit penitent.

It is time to fight back.  I have finally been driven to the point of insanity and invested in a cat repellent device which I have gleefully

Claiming back the herbs

installed in the bath.   The adverse, although some might see it as positive, effect of this little tool is the deterrent effect it has on teenagers.   The gadget emits a high pitch sonic drone which really seems to bother the ears of my two teenage boys.   Mini Son can hear it but is not agitated by it.  I can hear nothing.

I woke this morning to an ultra low eerie wave of sound, a little like the sweep of the old air raid klaxon but far more futuristic, similar to the continual wave of a Jedi lightsaber.  Realising the device was turned on and in some spooky retribution I was being subjected to punishment I leapt from the covers and ran into the garden to turn it off before the whole family was wakened.

Standing in a cold damp garden in just my nighty and bare feet I found the machine already off and the noise dissipating into the foggy distance.  Was it an alien alerting his amigos, a walker whistling for his disappearing dog or a complex and confusing additional dimension to the dream I was dragged from?  Or maybe the moggies are fighting back. I may never know but I do understand the low sonic wave the boys find annoying and will remember to turn it off when they are around.

Needless to say I have not seen any cats all weekend and even the dogs, whose owners are not so diligent, have failed to leave their little gifts where the children all play.  Even more remarkably there has been a lack of teenagers hanging round the house; so there may be some benefit after all.

It has been a busy week for writing,   I have sent off 6 stories to the Reader’s Digest 100 word story for this year’s competition, hoping to match Middle Son’s success last year at the very least.   100 words is not a lot and the whole story has to pivot round one sharp scene with a twist in the final sentence.   In contrast I am writing a short story on conflict for which I am researching Hindu religious culture and producing some interesting first person prose.  It may end up too long to be a short story but I can’t tell yet if there is enough backfill to make a novel.

I was approached at work a couple of weeks ago to pen a press release.   Delighted with the challenge and recognition I sent off the piece to the local paper and was over the moon when it was published the following week.  I claimed ownership from them to add to my portfolio; you know the ever increasing published and unpaid writing portfolio, people I have worked with for years suddenly found me interesting albeit transitory.

Finally I have launched a new blog.  This has been a long time in the making not because it is difficult but time and events always seem to have delayed its creation. It is a very different type of blog with a few words introducing recipes and comments after to tell how they went down.   I hope people will interact and give advice and comments back so the original recipes become catalysts developing online threads  and experimental menus.  Please take a look and try out the recipes, let me know what you think.

Happy eating I am off to clear out the herb garden and plant fresh for this year so we can actually use the cat free herbs.




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