Friday, 17 January 2014

Tale of The Hotel Sitter And The Dead Parrot

There is a pretty little thatched cottage, complete with roses around the door and weaver-birds in the acacias. Its precise location escapes me: somewhere between Blomfontein and Johannesburg will have to do. At the end of a wonderful tour of South Africa, friends and I were making a dash for the airport, and Dun-Tourin' was our last night out. 

By coincidence, the owners of this bijou B&B, were also on vacation, leaving their livelihood in the hands of Mrs Heidi Schmidt, a Hotel Sitter.

Heidi was in her sixties, and had taken up Hotel Sitting to supplement her retirement income. I am very interested. I would LOVE to be a Hotel Sitter. I'd even go back to College and get Certificates to qualify for it. If only for the stories that could be told. 

The Hotel Sitter And The Dead Parrot

Heidi was a terrible cook. An indifferent stew followed by tinned fruit salad topped with evaporated milk was the worst meal of the trip, or ever, come to think of it, but she more than made up for it with her stories. The most memorable she related concerned a week she spent looking after a family-run hotel on The Garden Coast whilst the owners were taking a short break. 

"Take the dogs for a walk every morning and evening and put the parrot back in his enclosure at night. Just whistle, and he'll fly straight in." Seemed simple enough. Not quite. 'Taking the dogs for a walk' entailed putting them both in an old pram and pushing them around the yard, and getting the parrot to fly meekly back into his cage after a day of comparative freedom, was a non-starter, no matter how loud or long she whistled. 

"The parrot had taken a dislike to me. It bit me when I tried to feed it, and whenever I tried to bring it in. It would flutter away from me and swear." 

Heidi recalled a long flight of stone steps from the verandah to the garden. Parrot would wait for Heidi to climb the steps, then flutter back to the bottom of them. Repeatedly. Exasperated and exhausted, Heidi resorted to throwing a sheet over the recalcitrant, and man-handling it, kicking and screaming, into its sleeping quarters. Tired and triumphant, Heidi snapped the door shut and went to bed.

Silence greeted Heidi when she woke the following morning. Instead if screeching obscenities at her from it's perch, the parrot lay flat on it's back on the floor of its cage with its feet in the air. The beautiful Amazonian grey , a family friend and heirloom, was to all appearances, dead. 

Heidi did what she could. She shook it, massaged its chest, tried to force brandy down its throat- the parrot remained mute and still.

Panicked, Heidi called the vet. Who evidently knew the parrot very well. It was a repeat offender.

"It's playing dead." The vet advised. "Cover it up and wait and see what happens. Call me back tomorrow if there's no improvement."

Within two hours, the wily and vindictive bird regained its  perch and squawked to be fed as if nothing had happened.

Remember Heidi's story the next time... Oh! You know. 

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