I was lucky enough to grow up with one of these remarkable birds, thanks to my great aunt’s penchant for antiques. During a visit to an antiques auction house in the 1980s, she was horrified to discover that one of the auction lots was a bright green, caged parrot! She couldn't possibly go home without him.
Not being in a position to be able to take on the commitment of a pet, our family was the obvious choice as we already had a menagerie. It was then that Maestro entered into our lives.
Maestro wasted no time in establishing the pecking order within the family, going on to become top dog. He was an accomplished crooner and had a wide vocabulary, guaranteeing thrilled reactions from visitors.
As is common with many species of parrots, he had his favourite human which, after years sometimes, changed suddenly and without warning. I was honoured to be his favourite for a few years, during which time hung upside down from the gutter and sauntered across the quilt singing, while I was bed-bound with chicken pox. As the early riser in the household I used to bid him "Good morning" when I came downstairs, a greeting he returned after a few weeks of learning. He also used to enjoy quietly pealing grapes, standing beside me on the table while I did my homework.
As well as favourites, he had his nemeses. The most memorable of whom was our grandmother — the woman who gave him the most love and attention of all, yet he insisted on rushing across the room, on foot, to bite her ankles.
We don't know what his history was before he joined us, but he lived like a king while he was part of our family. Whenever possible he was outside his cage and, during warmer months, enjoyed time in the garden; in autumn, returning home with a purple beak, after feasting on elderberries.