Apologies to Joe Simpson for stealing his title and possibly making you think this was a story or courage and fortitude. I'll leave that for you to judge.
Late on Thursday night, I was watching The Investigation
and nodded off. I was awakened by a loud thud and a lot of scratching sounds emanating from the fireplace. When lockdown started we had bother with mice, so I thought this could be them coming back for revenge since we blasted them away with hi-tech sonic gizmos. There were lots of stories and videos of animals in places where they wouldn't normally be, goats on roundabouts was my favourite. So, as you can imagine, I was not keen on dealing with the critters just before bedtime. I thought if I left it until tomorrow, whatever was making the noise would be gone by Friday morning.
Scratching noises still coming from the fireplace. We have a real flame fire and when it's not in use it's blocked by a cast iron flue guard to stop the cold air coming down the chimney. After a bit of debate and discussion with the family, it was decided that we should remove the guard. It was possible that the creature would be on top of the guard when I removed it and fall into the waiting bag. With a deal of apprehension and a bit of fear, I slowly removed the guard and expected the critter to drop into the plastic bag, whether it be a mouse, rat or bird. By now, the rest of my family had made themselves scarce, fearing the scene from The Birds
or Indian Jones and The Temple of Doom
I took a deep breath and slowly removed the guard. Nothing fell out, just a blast of cold air and soot that covered my face leaving me looking like Dick Van Dyke at a school play. I shone the torch up the chimney and had a look around, but couldn't see anything. Just as my head was inside the fireplace and I was looking directly up, I heard a loud scratching and thumping sound and jumped up, hitting my head and just about wetting myself. I waited to see if anything would appear but nothing did, just the intermittent scratching sounds. My wife suggested that I phone pest control. After a discussion with a couple of companies and informing them that there was limited access, the consensus was to 'do nothing, it won't live for long without any food or water, whatever it is'.
The weekend was fairly uneventful. We weren't in the room much until the evening and by now the guard was covering the outlet again. We still heard noises but were at a loss as to what to do. The options appeared to be:
1) Do nothing, it will die. Then it will smell and eventually rot away bringing flies.
2) Remove the fireplace (massive job as it's fixed).
3) Remove part of the fireplace to try to get better access.
We decided upon option three.
I called the gas engineer and told him what the problem was and he said he would send somebody on Tuesday. We were still hearing scratching sounds and the odd thunk. Then we heard what was unmistakably a flutter. It was a bird. A bird... not a plague of giant rats ready to devour us in our sleep. 'It was a flutter wasn't it? Did you hear a flutter?' Yes, we all agreed that we did.
The engineer arrived and I appraised him of the problem. He was a bird lover and wanted to help the bird. The fireplace is constructed in a way that it basically has no removable parts. We removed as much as we could but couldn't get any access. After removing the fireplace grate rail, there was a tiny hole and when he shone torch down the void space I could see a bird, a big bird, a wood pigeon to be precise. Phew. No mice or rats. That was a weight off my mind.
We scratched our heads and tried to work out how we would free our prisoner trapped in the fireplace void. The only solution would be to break the bottom tile. A big decision and not one I made lightly. The fireplace tiles have a floral pattern running vertically and each tile is different. We reasoned that if the bottom tile was removed, the bird would be able to just fly out or we could catch it with a Heath Robinson combination of cardboard box and beach towel. Simple.
The fitter broke the tile and removed it completely, luckily not damaging any other tile or the bird, which must have got a major shock hearing loud bangs and then seeing a screwdriver appearing beside it. Dougie removed the cracked tile pieces.
We stood back and gave the bird some space to make its getaway. Unfortunately, the bird had other ideas and appeared to be taking a well-earned nap after all its exercisions. It was definitely alive but it was not interested in showing its face, all we could see was its tail-end. Dougie suggested tempting it out with peanuts so we set out a small pile of nuts and a dish of water. We waited. We took pictures, we waited some more. Then we called the RSPCA. They suggested leaving the room and opening all the windows. We left the room.
Three hours later, I phoned them back again and within the hour they were here to remove the pigeon. It was a bit dazed and confused, and appeared to have difficulty when it tried to fly outside in the front garden, resting on a nearby bush. At that point, the RSPCA lady decided she would take it away and give it some sustenance, keep it in overnight and release it in the morning.
Whilst my karma may have received a bit of a boost, the fireplace looks like Shane MacGowan. Anybody know a good artist, or failing that, a good divorce lawyer?