Our house in Port Alfred has a very long passage. It was tiled by a myopic person with a squint and a penchant for sniffing grouting glue. Walking down it is easy, unless you’re trying to process the previous evening’s Shiraz while carrying the early morning coffee back to bed. Concentration is everything. Jess was spending the week with us and I spotted her about 20 metres ahead of me making her way to our bed for the early morning chat.
Suddenly she screams, charges into our bedroom and slams the door. I am left with half a coffee; the other half has scalded my shins and is now being sponged up by my slippers. My vision is disturbed by nothing untoward, but I am suddenly assailed by a loud rushing of air and a repeated banging on glass – reminiscent of a pre-climactic scene in a Harry Potter movie where Voldemort is about to materialize. I shut my eyes tight in case he does, and place my coffee mug on my toe, in preparation for flight. I turn around and run straight into Quentin’s freshly shaved chest (the result of a recent op to renew his pacemaker battery). He has come in from outside to see what all the fuss is about. Spike the brainless, but well-meaning mutt is on his heels. Quentin pushes me to one side and the cat (nameless) does a spatch-cock belly crawl past us with a look of sheer terror and then disappears in a ginger blur. Meantime the rushing of wind and the banging, gather pace and volume. And then the light bulb of understanding explodes… along with the squawk of a hadeda. Anyone who is familiar with the sound, will know that “gentle or lyrical” are not words that fit this sound – even when it’s coming from the neighbour’s rooftop. Imagine now, that noise within the confines of your winter lounge (our house boasts 2 lounges – the winter lounge has a wonderful free standing fireplace, some ragged furniture and the same interesting tiling. Not much else. Not even curtains against the sliding doors, one of which hasn’t slid for about 7 years. The point is that the space is cavernous and therefore perfect for echo and reverberation. )
And there, having ambled in through the functioning sliding door in search of the morning worm, is a hadedah, and having discovered nothing more than some poor tiling, it is trying to make its way back into the garden through the non-sliding sliding door. And failing.
Its displeasure is deafening and playing merry hell on my eardrums not to mention curdling last night’s Shiraz. Spike, overjoyed, thinks a friend has come to play and barks raucously at its terrified ankles. Feathers rise, Quentin sinks and tries to lever the bird from between the door and (unnecessary) burglar bar, but it’s a difficult manoeuvre because the bird has wrapped its wings around the bars and is shouting with rude indignation at its would be saviour. Quentin’s back is on the point of collapse but with a nanosecond to go, he wrestles it from the bars, rushes for the open door and releases it. It gives him a squirt of gratitude and lopes through the air onto the roof with a final squawk. Dog is devastated, cat and Jess remain unseen, Quentin is a hero, I switch on the kettle and start the day over.