I was recounting this story of my parents' life during WW2
by Ziks511 - 3/12/10 9:46 PM
to a friend, and we were both laughing so much, I thought I'd try it on you all.
My mother was a WAAF (Women's Auxiliary Air Force, part of the Royal Air Force) who was stationed at Medmenham, Buckinghamshire as part of the Photographic Interpretation Unit at Danesfield House. This was the primary location for the collection and interpretation of Photographic Reconaissance for the RAF. She shared a flat with a girl-friend and was baby-sitting the girl's Corgi Terrier called Vicky in her absence, on assignment to another unit. My mother's pet was a rather spry if elderly budgie whose name was Flat Top because of a slightly oddly shaped head (for a budgie).
Now Flat Top had the run of the flat, generally flying free, though preferring to sleep in his cage. He'd fly from curtain rods to lamp shades to other perches in the flat. Flatty could talk and had a reasonable vocabulary for a bird. She never tired of repeating phrases that she'd heard such as "Vicky is a good dog." What was fun was that sometimes these phrases and words would get derailed by some bird brain short circuitry resulting in some hilarious results. A common one was when he got into the "Vicky is a good dog" litany.
"Vicky is a gooood dog. Vicky is a gooood, gooood dog. Vicky is a gooood gooood Bugger bugger bugger bugger bugger."
Vicky was not entirely enamoured of Flatty, and for good reason. Flatty had a sense of humour. Flatty would wait until Vicky settled down to a nice little nap, and would fly down and land about 3 feet away, and would walk hesitantly up to Vicky's muzzle. Then he would take one of Vicky's whiskers in his beak and give it a terrific yank. The dog would yelp and jump to its feet only to find Flatty had flown off to some inaccessible perch presumably chuckling in some birdy way under its breath.
That wasn't the end of Flatty's mischief. Flatty would also dive bomb Vicky, zooming down to about a foot above the dog's head and then up to another safe perch, back and forth across the room, with Vicky snapping after the bird every time with a dull clop of its jaws. This could go on for 15 or 20 minutes at a time, and usually the dog was so frustrated that it had to be taken out for a walk before it went completely bonkers.
The bird was also a bit of a souse. It would land on my father's glass of whisky and water (the USAAF used to fly it in from Ireland because it wasn't very freely available in Britain, being one of their prime hard currency exports during the war). Flatty would dip his beak in and drink a little and fly off. Now alcohol impairs birdy judgement just as it does human judgement, and as my father drank his whisky, the level would drop, and the bird would have to lean in further and further into the glass until inevitably, it would slip and fall in head first, only to be rescued by my father pulling it out by its tail feathers. I know most of this because my dad's old Air Force buddies would ask what had happened to the bird or saying, "Do you remember when that damn' bird of yours used to...." Apparently stories about Flatty were a Squadron staple.
Budgies are vain things, and one of the first things that they learn to say is "Pretty bird". Now outside of the bathroom, there wasn't another mirror accessible to the bird, but it found it could see its reflection in the chromed sides of the toaster, one of those old fashioned ones where the sides folded down so you could put the bread in. This was all very well, and Flatty would waddle around the kitchen counter admiring himself in the toaster, but all this vanity was distracting to the bird and on two occasions it set its tail alight by trailing it through the gas burner of "the hob" or cook-top of the stove. I don't know this for certain, but I suspect his tormenting of Vicky had to go on hold while his tail feathers grew back. Better flight control, you see.
I grew up on these stories, and never tired of hearing them, whether recounted by my parents or their visitors, or myself over the years. I always wanted a budgie, but I think my parents were worried about my asthma. They did have a dog when I was born, and it slept every night under my crib, probably not the best situation for me, but its too late to correct now. She had an unhealthy appetite for pig offal from a neighbouring farm at slaughter time, and developed kidney problems and died when I was about 4. I have only the dimmest memories of her, a Kerry Blue Terrier named Bonny (as in "a bonny wee dog"), and a delight.
Hope you liked the stories.