Friday, May 27, 2011

One For Sorrow

It’s not a common occurrence for me to feel like Rolf Harris (even when I am humming-and-harring along with my wobble board) but this week I felt like I’d stepped into the old man’s Blundstone boots good and proper.

A member of the Great British public, always so ready to immerse themselves full-bodiedly into the foaming waters of sentimentality, came rushing into my workplace on Wednesday to report an injured magpie lying in the park outside. Could we ring the RSPCA because they didn’t have a phone on them?

We’re not hard-hearted psychopaths here where I work (*cough*) but even the most soft hearted philanthropist among us rolled his eyes (read that as: I rolled my eyes) because inevitably this would mean us chasing our tails with the RSPCA recorded messaged, fully automated, call centred screening device. Or, “sod off and take it to the vets” as it is known for short.

Now, I’m not having a go at the RSPCA here. They do a fab job and they’re one of the jewels in the British crown. But from past experience I know that they are always heavily subscribed and naturally have to prioritise their cases. An injured magpie was not going to take priority over Mrs Brady’s Pekingese that had somehow found itself the prize fighter in a badger baiting ring. To a lot of people – not me, I hasten to add – magpies are seen as vermin.

Personally I think they are wonderfully majestic members of the crow family and I have a soft spot for them.

Which is probably what motivated me to dismiss my initial objections and get involved with trying to rescue Albert (as I secretly christened him) in the first place.

Albert, when I went out to locate him was in a very bad way. Another magpie was pecking at his head (I’m pretty sure this was not a form of CPR) and was trying to flap his attacker way rather pathetically. In fact, I’m not even sure that Albert was aware of what he was doing – the movement could simply have been an automatic response at the motor neurone level. Poor Albert’s head was pecked clean of feathers, bloodied and I couldn’t really discern where his eyes were.

In true hospital TV drama parlance: I didn’t think he was going to make it.

Nevertheless, I put him gently in a box and a colleague persevered with the RSPCA’s telephone version of musical chairs. Eventually, when we got through, the verdict was what we’d expected. No free operatives in the area, please take Albert to the local vets.

We rang the vets. They agreed to take him, though said the RSPCA was naughty to pass the buck onto them.

Whatever. Neither I nor Albert cared. He was doing nothing more than breathing and I figured every second lost was less chance of Albert being able to find his Victoria again.

I took him straight round to the vets. The vet did actually apologize – apparently she’d given me the wrong information. Vets are meant to take wildlife; but they don’t get paid for it.

Whilst I felt sorry for the vets, I felt more sorry for Albert. I could feel his life ebbing away inside the box.

The vet had a quick look at Albert and her diagnosis was: “Oh he is poorly, isn’t he?” She then took custody, thanked me for bringing him in and said she’d “do the deed”.

From this I assumed that full CPR and an iron-lung were not on the cards for Albert. And after many dedicated years of service to his country too!

I left the vets feeling oddly flat. Kind of in limbo. I felt like I should have said goodbye. Or offered to give Albert a decent burial. A horse drawn carriage and rose petals on the roads.

Our association had been all too brief.

So.

Now I know how both Queen Victoria and Rolf Harris feel.

It’s an odd feeling. One can’t quite see what it is yet.



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43 comments:

Marginalia said...

Busy day at the office dear?

Well done you!

Don't feel sorry for vets. Feel sorry for us vet bill payers.

Why Albert?

Gorilla Bananas said...

You feel like the Grim Reaper's errand boy, known as the Grim Gofer to the mortally wounded. You'll have to learn the last rites if you want a promotion.

Steve said...

Marginalia: the name had a funny ring to it.

Gorilla Bananas: great. Death's tea boy. Have you trained as a bereavement counsellor?

Suburbia said...

Poor Albert :-(

Steve said...

Suburbia: but on a brighter note; he never had to pay taxes. :-)

Crystal Jigsaw said...

It's sad isn't it. I imagine he's up there in the big blue heaven, smiling down on you for wanting so much to save his life.

CJ xx

Steve said...

CJ: I have no doubt he's eating celestial worms and thinking of me...

missbehaving said...

You're a good guy aren't you!!

When I see a magpie I'm compelled to find another one, if there is only one, I worry about 1 for sorrow, 2 for joy and all that. Spent my childhood searching for the illusive 7 and that awesome secret.

Steve said...

MissBehaving: don't want to rub it in but there are loads around where I live (one less now, obviously). My record is spotting 11 at one sitting. Not sure what that signifies though.

libby said...

11? Does Tippi Hedren live next door?
Poor Albert.....at least someone cared for him in his final hours...

Steve said...

Libby: we've had some interest from Bill Oddie but my wife was hoping for Chris Packham.

Nana Go-Go said...

You`re never going to believe this and I`m not just making it up but when I clicked on your post, a Magpie wandered into my front garden but wandered back out again because I`ve gravelled it over and there`s nothing left to pinch!Do you think that`s some kind of sign or something?
ps I think I`ve fixed Blogger - when you sign in, don`t check the `Stay Signed In` box. It seems to be a cure.

Wylye Girl said...

That reminds me of a stray kitten I took to the vets in France. He had abscesses (please feel free to correct my spelling) all over his jaw and pretty sorry for himself. I expected the vet to do her best to save him so I was a bit taken aback when I asked about him the next day and she told me she'd put him to sleep. He didn't seem that bad to me.

Well done you for taking care of poor Albie. You did your best, Steve, no-one could have done more. Here, have a hanky......

Phil said...

Never was a Magpie fan. A lifelong member of the Blue Peter resistance movement me. We used to terrorise Magpie fans by stealing their packed lunches and dinner money until they sobbed out their pledges to renounce ‘all’ their allegiances to the Magpie cause and come over to our side…when I was at infant school. John Noakes was our beloved Messiah and this part of the world still remains a stronghold for devoted Blue Peter fans who will even now, willingly sacrifice their lives in our sworn fight against the infidels’ of the Magpie state!!!!

Phew. That feels better.

Oh nooo…I’ve just dun gone and peed in my pants again in all the excitement.

Eeeeeuwe.

Steve said...

Nana Go-Go: you're a genius. As for the magpie. You bet it was a sign. We're doomed. All doomed!

Wylye Girl: *sniff* thank you *sob* parp! We shall not see his like again. Well. OK. Yes we will. You know what I mean.

Phil: have to agree. My teen dreams were a landscape inhabited by Caron Keating and Janet Ellis and sticky back plastic... ooh la la. I'd loved to have shown them my Blue Peter...!

Alienne said...

You big softie, you. I had this the other day with Attila - as a 17 year old girl she is meant to be soft. She rang me at work to tell me 'my' cat had caught a bird that was still alive so what should she do. Birdie ended up in a box with Attila crying over it (she wanted me to tell school she was traumatised by Birdie's death when she sat some AS exams on wednesday). However, Birdie got a proper funeral under our willow tree. Having read your post I now hope that Albert and Birdie are playing happily together in Bird Heaven.

Steve said...

Alienne: amen to that. One question though. Do dead worms go to worm heaven? And if so what do the birds in bird heaven eat?

This is going to keep me awake now.

Fran said...

Just knew you were a man of compassion.

About Last Weekend said...

Sorry to hear about Albert. Rolf Harris? Have not thought about him in years...wonder why? As a Kiwi I felt some pride in his multi-talented life and now linked with Queen Vic. An abundance of riches...

English Rider said...

I see what you mean; we are living parallel lives with our avian friends, aren't we? I'm glad you did what could be done.

missbehaving said...

lmao @ ' one less now, obviously',
thanks for my first laugh of the day, you are the gift that goes on giving.

Steve said...

Fran: that was one hell of a lucky guess... 'cos the evidence is pretty thin.

About Last Weekend: I try not to think about Rolf Harris for years... sadly he keeps popping into my head. I may have to have therapy.

English Rider: I'm seriously considering taking up horse riding too...

MissBehaving: I know. I should be available on BUPA. ;-)

Keith said...

Your karma quota must be off the scale now for such an act. Thought this post was one of your best. Acerbic and poetic in equal measure.

But... seriously ? The Blue Peter girls were a bit like your sister, the Magpie girls were much more down and dirty.

Heather said...

the difference between UK and Finland on things like this is startling. Here you would never take a magpie to the vets - I'm pretty sure they'd laugh you out of their office if you tried.

Steve said...

Keith: all I can remember from Magpie was the guy with big hair like Brian May. Besides - "The Blue Peter girls were a bit like your sister" - my sister was pretty dirty.

Heather: next time I find an injured magpie I'll post it to you and let your neighbours do the necessary. It'll save my vet a lot of money.

Being Me said...

Awwww Steve! I am a tad too emosh'nal to go reading this tonight. Looking for his Victoria? Waaaaah! You old softie.

Steve said...

Being Me: *sniff* I know. And I think he had a stutter too... just like Colin Firth... *sniff* royal lineage, Albert had, I'm telling yer...!

Mark said...

I love nature but never quite get our sentimentality towards animals, especially squirrels; I have neighbours who actually feed the vermin.... They then complained when they came into their loft and caused damage - duh!

Steve said...

Mark: have to say I draw the line at inviting them into the house. Wildlife is best kept outside and... wild.

the fly in the web said...

You wouldn't have had the problem in rural France...the police would have had to be called to break up the fights for possession of Albert to make lunch...

Steve said...

The fly in the web: I doubt there was enough of Albert to make a decent chapardeur au vin.

;-)

Selina Kingston said...

it's a feeling of helplessness I guess. Knowing you did what you could and yet it still wasnt enough. Like so much in life.
RIP Albert.
And are magpies really seen as vermin. Pigeons I understand (and wholeheartedly agree) but magpies? They are so beautiful. And clever.
Thank you for persevering with my blog by the way. Blogger definitely has it in for me at the moment. It won't let me sign off now .....

Steve said...

Selina: Blogger needs some serious TLC. As indeed we all do. Even magpies.

Melissa said...

You know you're a goner when it gets a name. I fall for it every time. Albert sounded like a good sort.

I'm a bit sad for Albert and have the oddest urge to make you a cup of strong, sweet tea.

I'm here from Kirrily's blog. She says you're pretty great, and I've seen you comment on her blog, so figured it was time to come sus you out.

So far, so good. :)

Steve said...

Melissa: be most welcome. I shall endeavour to suss you out too. Any bloggy pal of Kirrily's is a bloggy pal of mine.

As for naming them... yep. It's lethal. I could never be a farmer. I'd even name the crops and vegetables.

The Sagittarian said...

Aw thats so sad...I 'rescued' a wee sparrow that my erstwhile Ernie had grabbed and the poor wee thing was so 'poorly' that I just sat with it in my hands until it died some 20 minutes later. I have on occasion been commissioned by the neighbours to take birds in similar condition to the Bird Lady...

Steve said...

Amanda: the bird lady? Is she the local vet or the woman from Mary Poppins?

Nota Bene said...

Alas poor Albert, I didn't know him well

The Poet Laura-eate said...

I had to phone the crazy woman who runs the local fox sanctuary to ask her advice on a fox which was lurking in harms' way on an active building site. She ended up shouting at me down the phone. Meanwhile the fox had sodded off to a safer place all by himself.

The Sagittarian said...

Steve, she's a woman about lives about 15 mins from our place and she has an autiistic son who has a thing with birds of the feathery kind - and gets good results! (Remind me to get the neighbours to knock off the drink so they can take the next bird...)

Steve said...

Nota Bene: where are his jibes now?

Laura: she shouted at you down the phone? So she was just mad as opposed to crazy, then?

Amanda: does she accept deliveries via airmail? ;-)

Wanderlust said...

Naw, aren't you a kind soul. At least Albert left this world knowing someone cared about him.

Steve said...

Wanderlust: *sniff* I'm still very emotional about it all.