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About A Week: Noisy Polly

Peter Hinchliffe tells of a retired librarian who has to wear a sun hat indoors - and all because of the fact that she shares her home with a parrot that loves to peck human heads.

A woman in our village was was telling me the other day of a bolshie parrot called Toby, more of a screecher than a speaker. When there are ebullient children around, Toby always tries to drown any noise they make with his own din.

He insists on screeching loudest and longest. He's also inclined to bite. One minute he's all loving, the next, for no good reason, he'll give you a harsh peck on the cheek.

Peggy, a retired librarian, looks after Toby when his owner is away. She wears a sun hat indoors while the bird is out of its cage. It is attracted to human heads and has been known to peck.

Toby, a colourful bird with a grey head and green, orange and yellow feathers, could be pecking out his revenge on the human race to avenge a deep emotional upset. He was acquired as the result of a notice posted in a local fish and chip shop. His new owner mistook his sex and gave him a female name, later changing it to Toby.

Another local chap was recently stopped in his tracks by a talking parrot. Chris was walking through the lobby of the Roman Hotel, Cyprus, heading for the swimming pool. Non-resident holiday makers can use it.

A harsh voice suddenly demanded: "What are you doing here?"

Chris turned towards the voice, expecting to see the manager. It was a parrot, perched near the reception desk.

Amazing creatures, parrots. Dogs and cats can't imitate our speech, though they have lived cheek by jowl with us for thousands of years. Yet a bundle of feathers with a beak at one end and claws at the other can imitate the human voice so accurately as to sometimes fool even the discriminating ear.

Small wonder that so many parrot jokes go the rounds.

Did you hear about this magician, an entertainer on a cruise ship in the Caribbean? There was a different audience each week, so he repeated the same tricks over and over.

The ship's parrot grew bored with the routine. "He's put it up his sleeve," it would cry during the show. "Why are all the cards the ace of spades?"

The magician was furious, but there was nothing he could do about it. The parrot was the captain's pride and joy.

One day the ship struck a submerged rock and sank. The magician found himself afloat on a piece of wreckage with the parrot at his side. They glared at each other in silence for a week. Then the parrot said: "All right, I give up. What did you do with the boat?"

A chap called Tom was given a parrot as a present. The parrot was full-grown, a good talker, but every other word was a swear word.

When the parrot opened its beak the air turned blue. Tom spoke quietly to the bird. It swore at him. He played gentle music. The parrot swore louder.

Eventually Tom opted for shock tactics. He placed the parrot in his freezer for a few seconds. There was silence.

Feeling guilty and apprehensive he opened the freezer lid. The parrot stepped out on to his arm and said, "I owe you the most profound apology. I believe I have offended you with my rude language. I beg your forgiveness and I promise that my words will give no cause for embarrassment in future."

Tom was astonished.

"By the way," said the parrot, "might I ask what the chicken in there did wrong?"

*

Would you believe, and this is not a joke, a professor and students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are teaching a parrot called Arthur to surf the Internet. Apparently parrots become bored. When they are given something to look at they are happier and less aggressive. Arthur has been taught to work a joystick to find things that interest him on the Net.

What next? PollyNet.Com?

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