A week went by, and then another, but Wordsworth was still away on his holidays. The police informed us of a couple of sightings of large yellow-orange parrots but he was never around by the time we got there. One of the policemen we spoke to told me parrots were not a particularly unusual sight in the city.
“You’d be amazed where they get out from, Miss. Sometimes I think there must be a whole colony of them out there by now, and they’re breeding.”
Six weeks went by, and we had to admit defeat. Aunt Irene and I returned to Nazir’s Pet Emporium and purchased a green budgie to replace Wordsworth. Aunt Irene, rather mournfully, christened him Keats. Two days after that, I had just popped in to Aunt Irene’s for a cup of tea when a man in a traffic-warden’s uniform knocked on the boarded-up front door. There he stood, holding a cardboard box with holes punched in it. The occupant of the box was not in the best of humours.
“Goes around, comes around,” it said.
“Yourn, innit?” said the traffic warden. “Fahnd it parked on top of a parking-meter. Made a bit of a pickle of somebody’s Rolls Royce, I can tell yer. Tried to take a chunk out of me wiv’ that dirty great snout, but I was too quick for it – got it in a taxi – straight ‘ome – cardboard box – ‘ere.”
“But how did you know where here was?” I asked.
“Told me its address in the taxi, didn’t it? Reeled the whole fing off. Good fing I ‘ad my ticket book and pencil ‘andy. That’s a bright ol’ bird you got there.”
Whilst Irene was making a fuss of Wordsworth, and offering the traffic warden a whole year’s worth of free elocution lessons as a reward for his kindness, I rushed back inside to make sure the window was closed this time. Wordsworth’s empty cage was still there, next to a new, smaller one, with Keats in it. Within a few seconds the wanderer was reinstalled.
Wordsworth inspected his replacement out of the corner of his eye. Fluffing up his feathers, he edged along his perch in the direction of Keats, before treating him to what I can only describe as a venomous look.
“Where do you live, eh?” he said, in a perfect cockney accent.
“Goes around, comes around.”