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An albatross swan song – Verse 4: Ten toes for Geoff, a budgie and neat little numbers

By Justin Obodie
Created 14/06/2009 - 23:59

An albatross swan song – Verse 4: Ten toes for Geoff, a budgie and neat little numbers



By now you have all probably noticed I have yet to show you my toes. I was actually holding back until they were all brand new again – see – there ya go.

I have recently been blessed with a miracle; my toes grew back, see – and beautiful toes at that. A Taoist man of magic (referred by the goldenelephantpharmacy) told me that for the modest sum of 2,700,000 RMB he could reincarnate my normality; just like I was before I volunteered for that mine clearing gig. But he wanted the cash up front.

Being an albatross of no wealth or cash to brag of I offered him ALL (trust me) of my Royal Bank of Scotland script which once upon a time, on paper reckoned more than thrice his initial offer. I assured the magic man the signatory of said script, one Malcolm B Duncan, was a man of honour and said script could be redeemed at his convenient discretion from the Potty Point Chambers of the aforementioned signatory.

Thanks Malcolm for the toes and if I were you I’d find a new office asap. ;-)

On a more serious note allow me to return to my childhood and share something that is now indelibly tattooed in my brain; something that had almost faded away. Nothing profound, nothing really important to me personally but it is, and was, to millions of human beings, Geoff included. It’s a ghost, harmless to me personally but a ghost of the nasty kind that does mean something to many. One degree of separation.

On occasions a friend of my Grandmother used to look after me. I looked forward to these occasions for our friend and her husband were kindly and generous folk who spoke with an unusual and interesting accent. They also owned a pet budgie and I delighted in the way it was allowed to fly like a bird, free about the house.

I can’t remember the budgie’s name but its cage was a place of peace to be visited at will. Everyone I knew who owned budgies or canaries at the time (1950’s) just kept them in a cage; that was the norm as far as I had observed. Yet these wonderful critters were so much more enjoyable when allowed to fly free – not the norm.

On one occasion I happened to notice a neat little series of numbers that looked like a tattoo, on (I think) the inner forearm of my gentle minder. I had seen tattoos before, but only tattoos of skulls and anchors and hearts and stuff, but never a neat little number, and never on a lady.

One afternoon I sat on my Gran’s bed as she explained to me what Hitler had done, and how he did it. I knew we’d had a recent war but to a kiddie of the 50’s it was all glory, guns and model Airfix kits for Christmas; entertainment really. On that afternoon Gran told me that horrific story we all know. Six million human beings (probably more) just like our sweet and gentle Jewish friends, who watched over me, were slaughtered, for no good reason at all.

I tried to imagine what six million people would look like standing in a mob; you’d need a bloody big paddock I reckoned.

Gran then retrieved some photographs, kids (from the bush) she grew up with; some had been slaughtered in the stupidity of 1914-18. I can’t recall any of photographs except one which was from WW2. Gran held up a softened black and white photograph (you know the ones) of a fine young chap attired in his brand new WW2 RAAF uniform. Off to war he was, and looking like a movie star, as they all do in those glorious images. I can still recall his face, his look.

My Gran said this kid was a real darling, “Such a lovely kid he was,” and while my Gran held his image before me she explained with increasing emotion that the poor lad’s war began in a Hawker Hurricane and ended about 10 minutes later. “They shot him out of the sky first time up – mongrels,” she spat, then slapped the photograph down on her bed in disgust, as if using it to metaphorically murder Adolf and bloody Nazis.

Gran was no pushover, a tough Scot who married a soldier (Black Watch). She kept a .22 in her wardrobe and believe you me she would use it if circumstances required. She also had a pearl-handled .22 pistol but for some reason never got around to showing me. Actually she encouraged me to take up shooting as a sport for this old albatross once had a dead eye, something I later regretted when showing off as a teenager.

You see, one day JO was in the bush with me best mate, we was out to shoot them pesky rabbits, but there was a problem – all the rabbits were in China that day. I happened to see a bird sitting on a tree branch in the distance. It was too far away to identify which bird it was and too far away for gun sights to be of real use. But I just had to kill something, so I had a go anyway; set the open sights then raised the barrel about a wee bit more. Crack, a whiff of cordite (smells, you never forget them), then the bird, like an apple, dropped from the tree, straight down.

We raced up to the vanquished to discover a beautiful Rosella lying on the dirt; not a drop of blood, no visible wound, just an innocent and still perfect looking creation of all the gods in all the universes, lying still. I had not the heart to touch it, but my best mate held it ever so gently in his saintly hands to discover that the .22 slug had hit it clean in the heart. By chance I had destroyed a life for no other reason that to show off.

My self-satisfaction and pride for achieving such a perfect shot was soon placed in the box it deserved when my best and closest mate said, “You bastard.” He said it deep from his guts and meant it. From that day until the present I have never shot at any creature great or small. I felt like a bastard.

On that crisp and sun-drenched autumn morning of 1968 I became The Ancient Mariner and that colourful Rosella, my albatross – if only for a day or so. I never had the heart to kill anything again.

How can anyone enjoy shooting defenceless animals, or defenceless human beings?

Fast forward a bit: JO is now 18 years old and working. By now I had seen plenty of tattoos, I even had one myself, but I was yet to see a tattoo on a lady.

One morning on my way to work I shared a lift with a work companion of mature age, a quiet and sweet soul who kept to herself. She spoke with a familiar accent. When she reached out to press the level 14 button her forearm told a story.

What horrors have you experienced dear lady? I thought in silence.

And the budgie flew in freedom, and slept peacefully in a cage without doors or locks.

It took this little boy many many years before I understood the relationship between a budgie and a neat little tattoo on the forearm of its gentle owner; but I eventually made the connection – thanks to Geoff who got me to remember a budgie and a fading little tattoo.



Audrey gets twitchy and is silently praying to all the Gods in all the universes that the bird that nests in such a construction will be a bloody enormous – DOVE – stuff Chance.

Coming up: Driving along on a Potomac baby……and Mona Loser’s house of ghosts – maybe.

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