I sometimes fantasise about how amazing I would be in an emergency situation: fighting off terrorists like Bruce Willis in Die Hard or rescuing babies from a burning house or flying a barely functioning space shuttle home. In my imagination I always pull it off, but this month I was put to the test for real, when our house was invaded.
I was on my way to hoover up some crap that had fallen down the chimney in my daughter’s bedroom when there was a terrible noise in the upstairs hallway. I was pretty sure the family were all downstairs.
I grabbed my vacuum cleaner like it was light sabre and prayed it had the suction to imprison a burglar. Though the burglar might need to be a ghost for that to work.
Suddenly a huge crow, much bigger than they seem when they’re up in the sky, flew wildly across the hallway. Even though it was nowhere near me I screamed like Ned Flanders, dropped the vacuum cleaner and waved my hands in the air in despair. Which was a shame as birds aren’t that heavy. I might have been able to suck it into my Dyson. But only on Max suction and that really eats up the battery life.
I was beyond terrified. Something from outside was inside. The natural order of things was disrupted and if a bird was in a house (that wasn’t a birdhouse) then literally anything could happen. Unless the bird had unusual coloured feathers and/or could talk. Which is normal.
I quickly reasoned, like a cleverer version of Sherlock Holmes, that it must have come down the chimney – this explained the debris in my daughter’s room. And also the fact that the bird wasn’t outside.
Plus this had happened before. When we’d moved in we’d found a dead crow in the attic. It had been my job to dispose of it. Every time I tried to pick it up, I would recoil in horror, convinced it was about to come to life, burrow into my skull, live in my brain and control me like a zombie to do its bird bidding. Which would probably involve me eating worms, damaging crops and coming down people’s chimneys, pecking open their skulls and turning them into my zombie slaves.
It turns out a living crow is even more scary than a dead one: the flapping wings, the ever present danger that it might swoop into your hair, the chance that you might get pooed on.
The foolish bird flew into the nursery and I slammed the door. Checkmate. Arguably this was the worst place for a huge disease-ridden, potentially-shit-filled ex-dinosaur to be. But my son wasn’t in there (as far as I knew) and it was contained and the terrified beast wouldn’t swoop down and peck off my nose, as black birds as wont to do in their continuing war with humanity. Why they started this war, no one knows. Some claim they were spurred into action by some past human leader cruelly baking 24 living members of their brethren into a pie. But these are the lies the bird terrorists tell to justify their actions.
Could just keep the door shut and let the bird live in there from now on?
No. You can not give in to crows. So I ran downstairs shouting for my wife in a high-pitched voice. Which is pretty much exactly what John McClane did when he first discovered Hans Gruber and his goons in the Nakatomi Plaza.
Luckily my mother-in-law had just arrived, and she’s not scared of anything. She suggested throwing a towel over the bird and like a man, I stepped up and got her a tea-towel from the kitchen. She disappeared upstairs and I hid in the lounge waiting for the sound of defeated bird or pecked to death mother-in-law. A victory for me in either eventuality? No. I love my mother-in-law and she’s much better at baby-sitting than a huge bird.
I waited ten minutes. Surely one way or the other it was over. But no. My mother-in-law’s towel trick was proving ineffective. She was now trying to open a window, but couldn’t work the locks.
I was going to have to go in and defenestrate my foe. And with barely a dozen thoughts for my own safety, I ran in, found the key and opened the window. The bird flew straight out, though gave me a look that suggested it couldn’t believe it had taken this long to work out this solution. I don’t speak bird, but I now know the squawk that means “human-brain”.
And provided any terrorists I encounter are happy to jump out of the nearest window (which is more or less how Hans Gruber was undone) I am still on course to save the world.
I recently met the Greatest Living Englishman: unsinkable 81-year-old Brian Blessed. I interviewed him for my Richard Herring’s Leicester Square Theatre Podcast (available for free online on video and audio). Well, I say interviewed him - I may have managed to ask three questions and he didn’t really answer any of them. But it was still one of the most astonishing hours of my life and his anecdotes covered biting a stranger’s umbilical cord, toileting on Mount Everest and throwing away a genuine Picasso. I felt like I had been hit by a lovely steamroller. I heartily recommend the show and feel I can do so, as I am not really in it.
I haven’t been out very much as I am out doing my stand up tour or at home looking after my children, but the other night I saw the most daring piece of experimental dance. It was performed in the nude by my 3-year-old daughter to “All You Need Is Love” by the Beatles. She sang and stretched and leapt and break-danced. It was magical. And to add an extra layer of meaning, when I tried to sing along she shouted, “NO, DADDY, JUST ME!” Maybe love isn’t all you need after all.
There’s a lot of controversy over where our new EU Passports should be printed and what colour they should be. What about having a choice of dark blue or burgundy? The blue ones will be printed France and the burgundy ones in the UK. And we then get to choose which one we want, based on how patriotic we are?