Here’s the offer. Day off school. Post-mortem on a peacock. In my mind as a 13 year old that seemed so much more exciting than a biology class about the reproduction of plants followed by double German.
The Pearson’s had peacocks. They were our next door neighbours. Next door in the sense that they lived in the next house on the same side of the road as us. The fact that there was a two mile gap in between the properties was irrelevant.
One of their male peacocks had died unexpectedly. The challenge was to find out why. First job, pluck the bird, trying to maintain the majesty of the feathers so they could be used for other creative exploits in the future. Time consuming but successful.
Then cut the bird open looking out for anything unusual. Lead shot. There were small lead weights in the bird’s stomach, which must have been discarded or lost by fishermen on the Tyne only to be ingested by the unfortunate bird. Bingo, an investigation that Gregory House would have been proud of. Diagnosis lead poisoning.
Prior to the death of this particular peacock, there’d been the peacock stuck in the tree incident. The peacock had been there for a couple of days and was showing no inclination whatsoever to return to ground level and go about its daily business. How then to get the peacock out of the tree? Of course. You invite the retained fire brigade from Bellingham to drive out on a Tuesday night and train their hoses gently on said bird as part of their weekly meet. Frank Matt, Ronnie Bickerton and crew turned up in the state owned fire engine.
Benny Hill would have proud of the debacle that followed. The late 1970’s permitted such jollity and madness without a blink of the eye and corporate headquarters knew nothing of such exploits. Hoses were connected to the tanks of the tender, firemen were in position and just as the valves are about to be opened, the bird launches itself out of the tree and takes off across the northumberland countryside followed by a posse of firemen shouting and swearing at the cumbersome bird.
Why am I sharing these fond memories? Well they are just a couple of many that flavoured my childhood favourably knowing and spending time with the Pearson’s. Mary was a big influence on me. She was a bit off the wall and different, being very much her own person, she didn’t tolerate fools gladly and liked an adventure. She was also amazingly talented and creative and could turn her hand to most things…. Upholstery, Animal Husbandry, Costume design and making for the amateur dramatic society, shed building, peacock post-mortems, catering, story telling, the list goes on. As a kid, I spent many hours in Mary’s company and there was always an adventure to be had or a tale to be told. Sadly the adventures came to an end this weekend.
I will sorely miss my trips to Carriteth, arriving sometimes on foot, by bike, vehicle or even by canoe once. The door was always open. The kettle was always on. The chickens may have been in the kitchen but the welcome was always genuine, warm and hearty.
Today we head back out to sea for a few days. Bermuda is our next planned destination at 900 miles ish in the far distance. Grace is about 80% ready to depart. Fuel and water top ups required. Dinghy and outboard need stowing. A home needs to be found for the general detritus lying around in the cabin. Here’s to fair winds and good progress. Sorry no photos… the internet is pants!