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.
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.