I don’t remember how exactly I happened upon Richard Henry. It was probably one of those things that I found after going down a particularly strange part of the internet. But find him I did. And really, there isn’t much about him that’s not exceptional. A flightless parrot, with whiskers, who wandered the forests, through a series of tunnels, making a booming sound, searching for a mate. He’d walk, sort of a low, hunched over plodding walk, up this huge hill, to find one of the bowls he’d made previously to amplify the sound of his call – a low booming sound – in order to attract a mate. The idea of this lone figure trudging up the hills in search of a mate – or I suppose, maybe, even just proof that he was not alone amongst his species – night after night was tragicomic and appealed to me immediately.
Richard Henry was something of a Quixotic figure and quickly grew in my imagination and esteem. The lone parrot, heartbroken, singular, trudging through the forests. It spoke to me. I recognised something in this creature.
This one particular parrot, Richard Henry, came to stand in my head as the ambassador for the entire breed. Handy too because I can spell his name, as opposed to the actual name of the bird species, kakapo, which took me a while to get the hang of.
Over the years, he has grown in stature, to arrive now at his rightful place in the Top Ten Things I Like Talking About Repetitively. The rest of my family got in on this, and now we can be found happily chattering away about Richard Henry, as though he were an old family friend. This can be confusing for people who are unaware that we don’t know him, and he’s a bird.
Delightfully, once I’d learned of him and his kind, it seemed they were everywhere. Stephen Fry and Mark Carwardine made a nature programme called Last Chance to See in which a relation of Richard Henry shagged Carwardine’s head. Right there on TV.
Right there, on primetime TV was Richard Henry, though disappointingly it wasn’t the big man himself, but rather Sirrocco who now carries the flag for their people. But regardless, he was there, and it was brilliant. We saw him wander through the forest, amble around on the branches, and this one bird, Sirrocco, did indeed shag a man’s head on TV. As far as I’m concerned, it was the best bit of TV I’ve seen in decades.
Thus, when The Mom announced it was New Zealand she was heading to this winter, I immediately insisted that she go forth and find the bird and make his acquaintance, passing along several random messages that seemed Very Important. Sort of like when you pack up your space ship and add a couple of cool things to bring along in case you meet aliens. The Mom would act as the ambassador for our family, as we work to befriend all the birds.
In fairness, The Mom did her best to manage my expectations, but this has been several years in the imagining, and there was no way to avoid the fact that I was crushed that their trip didn’t include a trip to visit these grand and seriously weird birds.
But her reports of Sirrocco’s work as the ambassador for his species were very good and will have to serve as a substitute until such time as I can cope with flying to New Zealand to meet him myself.