Unbelievably Polly suffered no ill-effects from spending a fortnight at sea followed by four days on a train. When we reached our new home her cage was placed next to a wooden bookcase in the main living room facing doors on to the stoep (verandah). Her cage was so-placed that she was always on the edge of family activities. Every evening I took her out to play and gave her fresh food and water. She loved to climb up onto my shoulder to nibble my ears – but when she started to regurgitate food I used to worry that she might try to feed me! No matter what I did that bird was compliant. I could hold her upside down nestled in my cupped hands like a baby. In those days you could not buy parrot toys from the pet shop but Polly spent hours pulling apart the inners from toilet rolls or, better still, shredding wooden cotton reels. And she wrecked the edge of the bookcase, systematically working her way down the edge which she could get at through the bars of her cage.
By now Polly had an extensive vocabulary and a number of voices. She continued to chastise my brothers – adding John to her repertoire and using Mum’s disapproving tones. Then she learnt “I want my food”. Every night when we covered her cage she would use my voice to say, “Night, night Polly” following by three kissing noises. And she had a prolific wolf whistle. One of my friends was disgusted with my brother and it took me a while to discover why. She told me he had wolf-whistled at her. No! Not John! It was the bird.
Did you read Enid Blyton books when you were young? Do you recall “Kiki” the parrot in the “Adventure” series about Diana, Lucy-Ann, Philip and John? Well their parrot was always making noises like an express train and one day I discovered exactly what Enid Blyton meant. I heard the most unearthly loud shriek coming from Polly’s cage. I rushed into the room to find a snake slithering across the stoep and just about to enter the house. Luckily Dad had also heard the noise and dispatched the snake before it could hide itself under the furniture.
When I left home to go off to uni the task of feeding and watering my parrot fell to Mum. Despite the fact that my poor Mother kept up those tasks daily Polly was relentless in her efforts to prevent her. She waited with beak poised to pounce as soon as Mum approached the cage. I wish now that I had been more grateful to Mum for her patience and fortitude. It must have been with considerable relief that Mum handed over the parrot to my new husband and me and we moved Polly into our flat.