Woottons court – a leafy cul de sac, tucked away just off Cannock’s busy town-centre, a capillary leading to Sid’s Gaf. It was here that Jackie and myself once resided. Initially, I bought the one-bedroom apartment on the advice of my mother; when I was footloose and fancy-free. It was a typical bachelor pad; furnished with deep guardsman red Axminster shagpile carpet, soft, black, hand made Italian leather sofas, and a glass-topped coffee table on which to place our Nik-naks.
Our neighbours were mainly young professionals, who, after a day’s work, also enjoyed the peace and quiet offered by this much sort after location.
For weeks no one was aware that Sid had moved in. Life went on as usual. People passed each other, either on the carpark or in the stairwell. They gave the nod, and a glance to each other then went about there business.
Sid The Seagull was by now firing on all cylinders. He could stand up, preen and even walk about a little. It was a real joy to watch him.
Every Saturday night, we were visited by two very close friends, Ian and Steve, both of whom were keen birders. They had enjoyed witnessing Sid’s remarkable recovery, preferring to watch him rather than whatever was on the tele. I can’t remember exactly who suggested it, but someone pointed out that Sid needed a perching post. All that We had to hand, in the boot of the car, was an old weathered nest box. Jack went and fetched it. We watched as she placed it on the newspaper next to Sid’s nest of towels. We chuckled at how Sid stopped preening, and in the same moment moved cautiously to the side, and then, with a stern, concerned, what’s going on here look on his face, he went into pecking mode and had a go at Jack’s hands. His pecks were single stabs, aimed beak butts; they were totally harmless unless he caught the skin, then it was like being given a sharp pinch. Jack was having none of it, she grabbed Sid in her special double overhanded gull-grip. Sid wriggled and squirmed, his head twisted from side to side searching out Jack’s hands so that he could give them a peck and a pinch. His toes were stretched to their fullest, showing the entire span of his webbed feet; as his spindly, pink legs frantically kicked the air. Jack plonked Sid onto his new perching post, then released her grip. Sid shook himself, ruffling all his feathers, dislodging a few bits of white feathery down that sank slowly past his snow-white body, some landing on the newspaper, some on the carpet. I’m sure that if he could talk, he’d have said, maybe in a Cockney accent, watch it! Watch it! Try that again, and I’ll have you.
Bath time. By now, Sid was familiar with the sound of running water – he only had to hear the toilet flush or the kettle being filled, and he was off. He would jump from his post, then with his wings raised and outstretched for balance, he would do a sort of side-ways bound across the living room along the short hallway into the bathroom. There Sid would stand, on the side of the bathtub, waiting, turning his head excitedly, anticipating the dip to come. It was during this procedure that we got a scale of just how big he was. What an impressive wingspan! 1.4 metres.
Of course, we couldn’t disappoint the chap; we had to run him a bath. Amazingly, he knew how deep the water had to be before he plunged in; it seemed as soon as it was deep enough Sid got the green light; go for it! Wild horses couldn’t hold him back, he was straight in there. He used to pace excitedly along the edge of the bath looking down and stretching his neck in an attempt to get his head under the running tap. It was more than likely his over-enthusiasm that caused him to overbalance and topple in. He floated like a cork. After the briefest of submersions, he’d pop back onto the surface, and preen his breast and mantle; while paddling his feet, propelling himself along the length of the bath.
After his initial, sometimes over-enthusiastic burst, which lasted up to half an hour, he’d just float, drift, with the occasional paddle to alter his position. Jackie, Ian, Steve and myself used this time to chat amongst ourselves, occasionally looking in on Sid if things went quiet or there was any excessive splashing.
On average, Sid liked to spend about two hours in the tub. After which Jack would go into the bathroom and lift him out and return him to his perching post. It was as if Sid was preparing for the local Seagull Of The Century competition, she would have to plug in the hair drier and give Sid a gentle blow-dry. The gentle flow of warm air rippled his snow-white plumage as he delicately and precisely used his yellow bill to put each feather back in its place. He would even raise a wing, one at a time, from his body so that Jack could direct the airflow under his armpits.
After this three-hour physio stroke groom and manicure session, there was nothing Sid enjoyed more than to settle in and watch Match Of The Day. With a saucer of pilchards in tomato sauce and a few garlic and herb croutons; washed down with a bottle french non-vintage Still Mineral Water. Preferably volcanic filtered. Happy days.
Thanks for reading. Join us again for Sid’s farewell.