You can read part 2 of The Christmas Bird here: https://bakeandwrite.co.za/shortstory-christmas-the-christmas-bird-part-2/

The car trip down to Trafalgar was long but uneventful. Hoopie stayed in his covered basket and the girls gave him water regularly and fed him little bits of mince meat.

Hoopoes are meat eating birds and their diet comprises largely of insects. When researching the diet of the Hoopoe bird, Beth was surprised to read that they also ate frogs and small reptiles. Small balls of minced meat was the best alternative the girls had and Hoopie seemed to be thriving on it.

Their pet bird had grown and matured. He had been living in the attic at home; a large dark room with heavy beams. The family could hear him drilling into the beams with his strong beak. On one occasion, Hoopie had used his beak to kill a chameleon, he had repeated pecked at its head until it died. As far as Mother was concerned, this validated Hoopie’s position as a member of the family; Mother hated lizards and other reptiles of any type. Stella and Beth were a bit shocked but agreed that this was nature’s way.

When they arrived at the holiday house in Trafalgar, the family was thrilled. Their home for the duration of the holiday was a typical old-fashioned cottage with three bedrooms. The décor was beachy and there were dishes of shells and dried seaweed in every room. The cottage was close to the sea and had a musty, salty smell.

When the girls ventured outside, an incredible garden met their delighted eyes. A small patch of very green lawn was surrounded by thick and lush foliage. It felt as if they were living on the edge of a jungle. The late afternoon was filled with the sounds of nature; birds calling, crickets chirping and other noises less easily identified.

Hoopie was very pleased to be freed from his basket after the long car trip and took very well to his new habitat. He was soon flying around the garden, drilling into the tree trunks and investigating the insect life. Hoopie was so tame that if Stella or Mother called for him he would fly down and sit on their shoulders.

Money was still as consideration so Mother stocked up at the local grocery store with cheap foods like big blocks of cheese, gerkins and skate wings. Skate is a diamond-shaped, flat fish that looks a lot like a ray. Stella had never eaten this kind of fish before but they all loved it. Mother would batter the wings with egg and dry jungle oats and shallow fry them in a frying pan. This became the meal the girls begged for during the holiday. Lunches comprised of thick sandwiches of fresh white bread, cheese and gerkins. The cheese was processed and had a slightly different taste to what the girls were used to but they tucked in with gusto nevertheless. The sea air and relaxed atmoshere had an amazing effect on everyone’s appetites which had been quite lacklustre over the past few stressful months.

The holiday cottage also had a soda stream machine which thrilled the younger girls. They would take one of the bottles of cold water out of the fridge, add some soda stream syrup and then put it on the machine which filled the water with bubbles and turned the drink into a soda. Stella didn’t like the syrup which was very sweet but enjoyed the pleasure this machine gave to her younger siblings. She took some of her own savings to buy them different flavoured syrups at the shop.

The hot days passed, with daily morning trips to the beautiful, sandy beach and afternoons spent lying around reading. The cottage had a bookshelf of books, most of which Stella had not read, and it was like a late Christmas present.

Stella’s only slight anxiety was Hoopie. He had settled into the garden so well that his visits to the cottage became less and less frequent. He would disappear for hours at a time and now foraged for his own food, ignoring the little bits of mince meat that the girls left out for him. Stella didn’t want him to fly away just yet. She wanted to get him back home to his natural habitat.

To be continued.