of an old porridge packet and it used to hang-glide out of the cage and home in on the hot thermals that were coming off my porridge, and it used to just hang up there on these hot thermals going round and round with its cardboard wings, crapping in my porridge. The thing about budgie muck is that it looks like porridge and me mother never noticed and the budgie used to climb up the pole and lie on the floor of its cage in the sandpaper, laughing and thumping its chest. I've hated budgies ever since.
My second encounter with a budgie was even more traumatic. I was about twenty-one or two at the time, working in a factory making aerosol chips and living in a block of flats in Manchester. Living opposite me was the most beautiful Irish nurse you have ever seen. Two of everything she should have and all in the right place. But. I was very shy at the time with no idea how, to address women and even less of an idea of how to undress them. I tried tor show her that I' was interested in her by pulling funny faces and-wearing daft party hats every time she went past and putting subtle billets doux under her door, saying things like, 'I'd like to give you a punch up-the drawers.'
And then one day it happened. In a fit of generosity, she let me carry 4cwt. of coal upstairs for her and invited me in for a cup of coffee. This is it, I thought. I went in and sat dawn on the settee, and she made me
  a cup of coffee and told me that her name was Pog Mahone., Then a strange eerie feeling crept over me. I knew there was something wrong. The hair stood up on the back of my neck. I broke out into a cold sweat, and then I saw it.
In a specially reinforced cage on the 'sideboard was a budgie that was even worse than the one we had. It had a patch over one eye, a pirate's hat on, one leg and a crutch and a little man on his shoulder, and it was hobbling about going, 'Pieces of Nine, 'Pieces of Nine'.
I stood up and zoomed out of the flat, and she flew - after me, asking, 'What's the matter?'
'Well, I've got this terrible thing- it's claustrophobia,'
'I'm sorry about that because I wanted to ask you a favour,' she said. -
'Well, go on then.'
'I was wondering if you would have Christmas dinner with me?'
'That's nice, 'cos I'll be on me own.'
'I'll be on my own as well.'
'Oh,' I said, 'certainly, ' because Christmas was only about a fortnight off.
Then she said, 'I wanted to ask you one other thing. I've got to go and see my mum and dad in Liverpool. While I'm away, would you mind Attila for me?'
'What?'
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