Crackers used to fly freely around our old Oxfordshire farmhouse. He was free to escape, but he never did, and free to sit with us, which he did often. His favourite perch was Grandpa Budgie’s head. It was obvious from quite early on that our pet macaw, a handsome green bird who liked to dig his wrinkled black hands into a well-endowed head, preferred creatures of his own sex. The appeal of Grandpa’s trim white-grey hedge was greater than that of my brother’s schoolboy’s shrubbery. It came with the added bonus of setting off his own fantastic South American plumage, as well as the dry black tongue of which he was rather proud and which used to slip out sluggishly to test the silkiness of the hair beneath his talons.
It happens that my grandmother, Granny Budgie – my grandparents were named by us after the 40 or so budgerigars they have kept, since long before I was born, in an aviary adjoined to the large kitchen window next to the breakfast table – cannot stand dreary colours. She has always ensured that my grandfather is well-dressed. His impressive spectrum of shirts and knitwear ranges from turquoise to emerald, so there’s also the possibility that Crackers mistook Grandpa for one of his own. (more...)