Here's a 'dead ringer' for Mickey, our pet budgerigar of the late 1950s. This little chap here is not a descendant of Mickey - his lineage died out when he fell off his perch at the grand old age of 8, being with 'no issue', as the solicitors have it. I am not sure what multiplication factor should be applied to equate a budgie's age to us humans, but Mickey must have lived to a ripe old age. Sadly we took no photographs of him so the world has been deprived of any permanent record of his existence - my Kodak Brownie box camera was quite unequal to the task of capturing him mid flight and would have resulted in an unintelligible black and white blur of something wildly energetic. Dad bought him when he was very young and Mickey took to us like a duck to water. The relationship was assisted enormously when, after a few days, Mickey became entangled in some knitting wool. Immediately Dad picked him up and placed him in the palm of his hand, a very dangerous place for a bird, and proceeded to untie him. Completely unaware of any potential danger in which his trust had led him, he realised at once he had been rescued. From that moment he allowed us to pick him up at will, put him in our pockets, tickle his tummy and stroke his feathers. He was absolutely fearless and became totally implanted on us - he thought my Dad was his Mummy, I am sure.
His maiden flight was something to behold. He looked across the room towards us all, holding out outstretched fingers and shouting words of encouragement to him. We could see he was summoning up courage for take off and to "Come on Mickey Boy!" and "You can Do it!" he launched himself into the air and flew across to us. However, he missed his chosen landing target - my hand - took a neat 90% sharp right turn and made an emergency landing on the table, just missing a bowl of custard and almost upsetting a vase of flowers, eventually skidding to a halt. Not wishing to be beaten by his initial 'pilot error' he took off again and this time proceeded to land flawlessly, celebrating with wild abandon by bobbing up and down at ninety to the dozen whilst pecking my glasses to a series of squawks and chatters, previously unheard. Obviously he was very pleased with himself, saying over and over again, "Who's a clever boy?" "Mickey! Mickey! Mickey!"
He was not lucky in matters of love - neither did he acquire the art of chatting up and, as they say, 'pulling' the birds. He must have been a handsome lad and could have charmed any bird out of the trees I am sure. However he never met a single hen in his youth. He was not unsociable - the fault was entirely ours, since we never thought of introducing him to a nice little hen bird so he could enjoy the delights of courtship and parenthood. He sometimes wondered what it would be like to fall in love but since there were no attractive hens in sight he did not complain but proceeded in his frustrations to belt the living daylights out of his plastic toy bird, squawking profusely with each violent attack. His mirror fared not much better since it too was the object of his occasional belligerent behaviour.
This enforced celibacy persuaded him to make his mark in life in a totally different way. He decided that he would have to forgo the pleasures of the physical world and instead concentrate on a life of learning, experimentation an imitation. He thought to himself, a hen bird around him constantly plus family duties would hamper any real impact he may make in this world. After all, just look what the great composers might have achieved without such domestic distractions as "Your food's on the table, come and get it or it will be thrown in the bin", or "Come and do the drying up, dear". Such interruptions might have ruined a whole concerto by killing stone dead sheer moments of genius. Without these constant unwanted interruptions Schubert may have completed his Unfinished Symphony, Mozart his Requiem Mass and Beethoven may have written a couple more symphonies at least. As for Shakespeare, well one can only imagine!
With this new found objective in life of total celibacy he became very inquisitive regarding every sound he heard - right from the start. He could have been the equivalent of a BBC sound engineer since he was fascinated with experiments in echo technology. He stuck his head down the brass central light fitting, so far on many occasions he nearly fell in, and analysing the echos he received back when he talked or chattered into it.
It was here he stayed when we played his favourite music, joining in the brass section with a mature understanding of pitch, rhythm and phrasing - he could have been a great conductor had he been human. He was not against any classical composer, yet liked some more than others. His preference was Bach because of the bouncing rhythm. He danced in perfect time to the Brandenburg Concertos - he loved them. He liked also Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, prefering the rarer Princess Ida to more popular, Mikado and Iolanthe. However grand opera was not to his taste since, more often than not, he thought principal sopranos sounded like dying ducks in thunder storms. On Sundays he bathed in his swimming pool attachment to his cage to Handel's Water Music - which he liked very much. On several ocassions he did wander into popular music, liking the Beetles, but hating the Rolling Stones. You might say he was a 'mod' and not a 'rocker'!
He was fascinated with his name and responded readily to it by flying across the room performing all manner of airborne acrobatics to rival even the red arrows. He would land on our finger, our head or spectacles whilst conversing in fluent and verbose 'budgie' language, nodding his head so violently that we often expressed concern he may injure himself.
He learned English at a prodigious rate of knots and mastered, "Mickey Boy", in a matter of days followed by "Auntie Gertie" over the next two. We told him right from the start, our English Language is rich in many descriptive adjectives and he agreed never to resort to using swear words - these were reserved for the likes of his larger cousins of sea-faring fame.
We discerned very early he was far more intellectually able than usual and he quickly tired of 'one' and 'two worders'. We could see he was highly intelligent and wanted to stretch his mind - he wanted meat not milk. We proceeded to teach him:
Gorgie Porgie pudding and pie,
Kissed the girls and made them cry.
When the boys came out to play,
Gorgie Porgie flew away.
Within three weeks he got the first two lines perfectly, after a trial run of him bobbing up and down at breakneck speed saying, "Gorgie Porgie Porgie Porgie!" With his technique corrected he perched on our hand close to our mouth and pecked us on the nose each time he wanted to learn a word.
The next two lines took over 3 years to learn and sometimes he got a few words wrong but very often he said it all perfectly and rewarded himself by clouting his new plastic bird, his forth since he had by now completely destroyed the first three.
This feat of learning in the budgie world clearly rivalled a human being reciting the whole Koran non-stop. Quite an achievement for a little bird.
One day we though we'd play a little trick on Mickey - I entered the room wearing my Uncle Ted's funny false nose and eyes. Mickey went absolutely bananas. Fearlessly he 'buzzed' the intruder and proceeded to dive bomb him just like the Stukas did in WW2 in Europe. I said, "It's me! It's me!" He took no notice and 'straffed' me again and again. I took off the offending equipment at once and placed it on the table but he made a beeline for it and proceeded to attack it with gusto so violently that eventually he threw it on the floor and stamped on it over and over again. Thinking it was dead he seized his moment for glory, circled the room three times uttering a shrieking battery of budgie obscenities, did a figure of eight, looped the loop and finished with a victory roll with such precision any spitfire pilot would gladly die to equal. Then he flew across to me and repeatedly pecked my nose whilst reprimanding me severely with, "Who's a naughty, naughty, naughty boy?" We were so impressed from that day he was promoted in the household to 'watch bird' just in case we had more unwanted intruders.
Grandma (bless her) visited us from the North of England. She was 90 and could recite in its entirety, "The Lay Of The Last Minstrel" by Sir Walter Scott. Quite a feat for an old lady but when she committed it to memory, it was laid down on very good grey matter. More recent events were much more of a problem for her to remember - in fact she was beginning to lose her mental agility for new things particularly. She enquired frequently, "What's the time?" - something many elderly people do. Mickey quickly learned that question and he and Grandma spent hours asking each other what they thought was the time. Grandma was fascinated with Mickey. She said, "That bird said, 'Auntie Gertie' and just asked me 'What's the time?' Isn't it clever? Listen it just said, 'Hello Mickey' ."
A girl cousin was staying with us also and she often wore a white coat. Grandma could not remember her name and called her 'Whitey' because of the coat. Whitey proceeded to tell Grandma that the bird was indeed very clever and came from Australia where they all talked to each other in English. "Fancy that! All talking to each other!" "Yes", said Whitey, "as soon as they hatch from their shell they say hello to each other". "Fancy that!" Wasn't she a naughty girl, that Whitey - teasing Grandma like that, indeed?
For his final year Mickey seemed to lose all desire to learn new phrases. In fact he talked less and less and seemed to be melancholy for most of the time. Was he, we wondered, regretting his decision not to embark on a meaningful relationship with a beautiful hen? Perhaps! For most of us it is the very dangerous time of thinking about a second flush of life while we can still manage to do so, but for him there was not even a first flush - poor chap!
Or could it be he was ruminating over the big question one always has in one's winter years, "Is this all there is to life or is there a new life when we depart this world?"
We never discovered just what his thoughts were because one morning we found him asleep for ever on the floor of his cage.
We had a little funeral for him and committed his body to the Earth but made a serious error in our understanding of burial procedure, where Mickie should have been buried 4ft down not 6 inches. Next day Dad informed us a cat had dug him up and eaten him. This was very sad but typical of Mickey's spirit of usefulness, for even in death he was willing to be a recycled budgie into the great Universal scheme of things. I often wonder it would be so nice if when I get to the great blue yonder if my little Mickey might land on my shoulder and say, "Hello, Eddie Boy!"
I am no great fan of Monty Python but I do like the Parrot Sketch of a larger cousin of Mickey, the Norwegian Blue. It is well worth another look. Had Mickey seen it he would certainly have laughed his beak off.
Finally, I think Mickey would have appreciated this excellent video of "Chick-fi-A" which appears on my good friend Janine's recent post. She lives across the pond and her blog site is called, Sniffles and Smiles. They modified a good song by the Beetles and it certainly made me laugh as well. Above this there is an excellent post about marriage which is well worth reading when it's time for serious thought again.
A sequel to this story can be seen on my post, Mickey, the Love-Sick Budgie.