Off sick yesterday. Watching daytime TV while feeling slow and dopey - which is cause, which is effect? In any case, as I was struggling to follow the cut and thrust of debate on The Wright Stuff, I was presented with a challenge to my agility, compassion, wit and initiative. On an ordinary day, this would be bad enough. With a nasal passage several millibars above tolerance, I rated it very unlikely that I would win the day.
Nevertheless, having spent about half-an-hour engaging myself in a "Did you hear that?" "What?" "That?" "Shh" conversation, I finally pulled down the loft ladder and hauled my mucousy, red-eyed head over the parapet, fully expecting to to be attacked by a rabid squirrel. The aerial assault that greeted me had the advantage of surprise therefore, and I damn near plummeted to a comedy broken leg there and then. Luckily my nerves of steel and cobra-like reflexes* allowed to wedge my hand between the ladder and the trapdoor frame. Stoically uttering a light scream, I was able to focus on the invader: a starling which had been inquisitive and agile enough to get in to my loft, but too damn stupid to get out the way it came in. Instead it was opting to fly up to the translucent roof tiles the previous owners had installed in the loft, (quite possibly as a way of tormenting trapped birds) smack its head off them and retreat to the far corner, whence it would restart the whole process.
Sure, it was funny for a while, but even the most sophisticated gags pall with repetition. So I set myself to rescue the wretched beast, driven partly by compassion and partly by a desire not to have a rotting corpse in my loft. Stupid though the creature undoubtedly was, this was not an easy task. My first strategy, to put an old blanket of the "window" and thus encourage the little bugger to find a different exit, achieved nothing (other than to liberate an approximate quarter-pound of dust from the blanket and directly into my already overloaded nasal passages.) In retrospect, the wheezing, gasping, snorting fit that I threw at that point could only have confused and terrifed the bird even more.
It was now that I called the experts, or at least the RSPCA. Like all major organisations who provide contact numbers, they require you to refine your query through a phone-tree:
If you are calling about a bird, press one...
If you are calling about a pigeon, press one. If you are calling about a duck, press two. For raptors or other large birds, press three...
I gave up around this point. Although I pity the guy confronting a trapped and angry buzzard: "If you have thick gloves, press one. If the talons are lacerating your face, press two."
As of this morning, there is no apparent bird in the loft. The bird seed and water I left up appear to be untouched. Even better, the squirrel poison I keep permanently up there also appears to be untouched. A cursory examination suggests that if it did cark it overnight, it had the malice and effrontery to do so in a dark and unreachable corner, the better for rotting to pieces in. Alternatively, it is even now flying around in the sunshine. You may never know, so if you'll forgive the Lady and the Tiger bit, you can choose for yourself. I however, have the shadow of corruption tainting my home.
It's a bit like Edgar Allen Poe, but not.
*Were you there? No. So cobra-like reflexes it is.