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How a dreary trip to a travel agent became an escapade of exotic birds and celebrity musicians

An inspirational escapade involving a peanut-loving parrot and an internationally famous musician? Everyday stuff for chaos-magnet Sam Delaney, not that his family believe him

A parrot

Image: Omer Faruk Uyar from Unsplash

It would be very easy for me to withdraw completely from the outside world and just become a hermit. To be honest, I’m halfway there already. I work mostly from a shed in my back garden, dressed all day in elasticated leisure wear. I venture out only to walk the dog and occasionally drive my teenage daughter to and from social events. It’s a simple, unfussy lifestyle that I find helps nurture a state of mental balance. 

However, I acknowledge that it is also a bit weird and boring. It’s also a shame, because I feel as if I still have a lot to offer society: I remain a colourful and entertaining person to interact with, given the chance. 

When I do occasionally stray outside my domestic bubble, I always try to make the most of the experience. I am someone who will talk to almost anyone: in the supermarket checkout queue, on the train station platform, even at the urinal at the public loos: if you see me, watch out, because I will try to strike up a chinwag whether you like it or not.

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Take last week: I was forced to travel to an unfamiliar postcode to pick up some documents from a travel agency. It was a boring administrative obligation that I was pretty fed up about – until I got to the company’s offices and spotted an empty birdcage on one of the shelves.

“Do you keep a bird in this office?” I asked the travel agent.

“Yes, my mother lives in the flat upstairs and has a parrot,” she replied. “Would you like to see it?”

Had I not asked about the cage, I would have never known about the mother or the parrot or the flat upstairs. You see? I like to chat. It always opens up opportunities. In this case, the opportunity was to meet a parrot – and it was one I grabbed with both hands. 

I finished the admin then got shown upstairs where I met a charming elderly woman who told me her life story while I fed her parrot – Sonny – peanuts through the bars of its cage.

“You’re a pretty boy,” I said to Sonny.

“I know that!” he squawked back at me.

It was comfortably one of the top five most thrilling experiences of my year so far. What a cheeky parrot Sonny was.

Eventually, I said my goodbyes and went back downstairs. By now, there was another customer in the office filling out the same forms as I had. I was sure I recognised him. I said hello in a familiar way and asked if he knew that they had a parrot upstairs. As soon as he opened his mouth to tell me that, yes, he knew Sonny because he was a regular customer, I realised who the man was: none other than noted violinist and former ‘enfant terrible’ of the classical music scene, Nigel Kennedy!

Still reeling from the excitement of meeting Sonny the parrot, I wasn’t sure if my nervous system was able to process a second shock of this magnitude. For a brief moment, I went dizzy and wondered if I was dreaming. Then I composed myself, told Mr Kennedy that I was a big fan and spent an enjoyable 15 minutes talking to him about Premier League football.

After this was all done, I went home to my family and told them, in a state of high animation, of the mind-boggling adventure I had been on. They listened to the whole story, spellbound, and I sensed that my wife and kids were starting to see me in a new light. Perhaps I wasn’t just the weird, reclusive, unshaven and friendless dope they had previously taken me for. Maybe I was, in fact, a cosmopolitan man about town who hungrily gobbled up the endlessly enriching array of experiences that life served up to him. A man who could turn a dreary trip to a travel agent into a compelling escapade featuring exotic birds and celebrity musicians. A man who drinks thirstily from life’s majestic fountain.

“Sounds like bollocks to me,” said my son, who is 12. My daughter nodded in agreement with him. My wife smiled patronisingly and just wandered off.

They didn’t think I was an inspirational liver of life. They thought I was a bullshitter.

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But it was true. All of it. And I don’t care if they don’t believe me (or if you do either). Because I lived through it. I had that sensational day out and no one can ever take it away from me. Don’t believe what they tell you about Londoners being unfriendly: I’m one and I’ve been talking my way into other people’s lives my whole life.

Read more from Sam Delaney here.

Do you have a story to tell or opinions to share about this topic? We want to hear from you. And we want to share your views with more people. Get in touch and tell us more.

Sort Your Head Out book cover

Sort Your Head Out: Mental Health Without All the Bollocks by Sam Delaney is out now (Constable £18.99)You can buy it from The Big Issue shop on Bookshop.org, which helps to support The Big Issue and independent bookshops.

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine, which exists to give homeless, long-term unemployed and marginalised people the opportunity to earn an income. To support our work buy a copy! If you cannot reach your local vendor, you can still click HERE to subscribe to The Big Issue today or give a gift subscription to a friend or family member. You can also purchase one-off issues from The Big Issue Shop or The Big Issue app, available now from the App Store or Google Play

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