African grey blues

Lugging his blue plastic recycling box through his front door, Ernie growled at his complaining right knee. It had been troubling him for a few weeks but he didn’t want to go to the doctor’s. He was old, that was all, nothing serious. Doctors were busy attending to genuinely ill people, not arthritics like him.

He was lowering the box on to the pavement when he sensed someone standing next to him.

Turning round he recognised his next door neighbours’ son, chewing furiously.

“Hello, Mr Beasley,” the boy said brightly through pink-gummed teeth. He then proceeded to blow a bubble which popped and receded expertly back into his mouth.

“Hello, Tommy,” the old man replied stepping backwards to let the boy pass.

Tommy stood still. “Do you know anything about African grey parrots, Mr B?”

“I don’t really. Sorry. What’s the problem?”

“I’m looking after it for a mate and I think it’s kind of… well, sick.”

“Oh dear.”

“Yeah. It’s sitting on its perch all solemn like. Bored or something, only it was all chirpy when I got it.”

“Which was?

“Saturday. He’s on honeymoon in Ibiza. And my folks are away, so I’m on my own and…”

“Anywhere nice?”

“Not really, gone to the cottage in Devon and left me alone, only they didn’t know about the parrot.”

“Would you like me to…?”

“Would you?”

“Certainly,” the old man replied. He went back into his house, grabbed his key, slammed the door shut and followed the boy into his house. “So it’s eating alright?”

“Uh huh.”

“And when you let it loose it flies about OK?”

“Loose? Like, out of its cage?”

“Well… yes,” Ernie said.

“Oh… am I supposed to do that?”

“It is a bird.”

“Well, yes,” Tommy mimicked. “But it’s a pet.”

“It is that, Tommy but like everyone, it needs its exercise. Imagine if you were shut in your room 24/7.”

“I wouldn’t mind that,” the boy said cheerfully.

“No, I don’t suppose you would. So where is it now?”

“In the toilet.”

“In the… toilet?”


“Any particular reason?”

“It’s got flowery wallpaper.”

“Oh I see,” Ernie said, although he didn’t at all.


Photography courtesy of

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