Next on the scene was a black Scottish Terrier puppy named Miss Smith. She inevitably ended up being called Miffy. The three, Miffy, Toby and André, got on well enough together. Having a dog was a new departure, of course, as she had to be taken for walks and had to be groomed. Scotties tangle their fur like nobody’s business and neither of us enjoyed grooming sessions. On the other hand, she seemed to enjoy sitting on people’s laps. She would spend hours curled up on your lap so that we joked that she must have had cats among her ancestors. Miffy accompanied me through the turbulent years of adolescence and went with us to Gloucestershire where she died of old age.
Miffy’s own growing up was somewhat turbulent. If we went out and left her at home alone, she would tear things up. If you were lucky, it would just be newspapers and magazines but sometimes it was more important items and on one occasion it happened to be banknotes. Another day we returned home and some of my young friends came to the door with us. When we opened the door, there was a large turd on the mat. The kids reeled back in mock (or real) horror and I felt deeply embarrassed. As the years passed, Miffy settled down and turned into a peaceable companion. I remember one winter night and the three of them, cat, dog, tortoise, all lying together in a heap in front of the fire.
During this time, we acquired a parrot. The owner, a recently bereaved widower, sold up his house and went to live in a series of bedsits where he was never content. He was not allowed a parrot in his various lodgings so the bird came to live with us. The parrot was green and was called Polly but that doesn’t necessarily mean it was a female parrot. We never did ascertain his or her gender. She (I will assume she was female) was blind in one eye which gave her an odd way of looking at you. She didn’t strike me as a particularly happy or friendly creature. In fact, she bit me a number of times. Polly lived in a big cage but we would sometimes let her out to fly around the room. That was fine as long as you kept your fingers out of pecking range.
Polly wasn’t a talking parrot or, at least, I never heard her say anything intelligible though her previous owner reckoned he knew what she was saying. Notwithstanding, Polly would join in every conversation. Whenever anyone spoke, Polly spoke too. It became hard to hold a conversation in the same room as her voice was very raucous. Covering the cage didn’t help: she was not so easily fooled. She would sometimes look at me and ask a question. At least, it sounded like a question. But as I didn’t understand the question, I could never answer it. When we went to Gloucestershire, Polly had to stay behind, so she went to a new owner and I lost track of her.
You don’t see so many parrots in captivity these days (no doubt a good thing) but whenever I see one, I feel the familiarity and remember Polly’s interrogative “Errrk?”