Friday 22 November 2019

Bidding a sad farewell to my lemony hen

LAY OF THE LAND Fiona O'CONNELL

I am experiencing a little grief this weekend, which I am sure anyone ,who has ever had little creatures they loved, can relate to. One of the two budgerigars that my late brother rescued -- the lemony hen -- passed away.

Her mate is such a great little fellow and was always so loyal to her. A vet I took them to years ago -- before I learnt that there is little help for budgerigars because no one expects them to live long enough to make research worthwhile -- said they were particularly close.

I didn't need an expert to tell me that. They sat nestled side by side on the apple tree branches that replaced the nasty plastic perches in their open-door cage (in the hope that it became more a sanctuary than the prison most birds have to endure).

There they preened themselves, pausing frequently to touch beaks with the sweetest of sounds.

In more mischievous moments, on silent cue they took flight from the highest branches on the roof, soaring above my head to land on the branches over the front door (covered with chicken wire and draped by a curtain, like a central European cafe).

There they enjoyed a quintessential bird's eye view of events beneath, watching with black, beady eyes. And you should have seen the flirting. He used to try to stand on her, feathers on end and eyes demented pin pricks. Each attempt usually ended when he fell off the branch in sheer excitement.

So now he is here in my writing room, where my meditation space used to be. Lyric fm is blasting out in an attempt to comfort him, while I'm trying my best to look like a budgie -- I grant you a very oversized and featherless one -- without a great song.

Plenty of tears were shed as I set the lemony hen on her way down the river to the sea. I remembered my brother's phone call to say a pair of birds had been abandoned in his workplace.

Two years later, at the age of 33, my brother was gone. I've minded these feathered friends ever since.

So it's the end of an era. But the green and yellow fellow is still going strong. It's so sad to see him looking lost. But these few days are the worst, hopefully, that he will endure.

Because thankfully I have found him a great new home. Nothing can replace lemony hen, but he is going to live with a big flock of his own kind, kept by a kind man with a heart condition.

So I'm very happy for the little guy. It will be like leaving a Parisian love nest and moving to Manhattan.

And more than 11 years, instead of the pathetic few seasons that is the fate of most birds, there's a poetic poignancy in the longevity of these symbols of the soul.

Whose souls my late brother entrusted to my care.

Sunday Independent

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