Owling In The Aisles

Yesterday, I spent a few cordial hours in the south west of our bustling metropolis when I visited the White Rose Shopping Centre.

I didn’t venture there with any agenda other than the provision of a lift for family members, resulting in spending most of my time dans les magasins dawdling aimlessly amongst the aisles.

For a brief period, I waited outside of the large supermarket at the far end of the centre, where I stole a few minutes scrutinising various breeds of owls, located on a walkway close to the supermarket entrance.

Of varying sizes and plumage colouring, the birds seemed particularly docile. Although in their defence they are nocturnal, so no doubt weren’t relishing the daytime presence at a centre, for the purposes of being gawped at by shoppers. That being the case, it’s hardly surprising they didn’t look full of the joys of spring!

Being at a shopping mall through the day must be like working a night shift for these beautiful birds. I worked nightshifts for twenty years and know how unpleasant it can be trying to function when fighting your body’s urge to sleep…… I have to say, my sympathy extended to you beaky lads and lasses.

With this close proximity to Sainsburys, it was re-assuring to see these birds, with well groomed plumage and studious expressions, securely tethered to a handler or a wooden perch.

I’m not an expert on owls, or indeed any avian, but I’d imagine if untethered a tawny or snowy would find raiding the nearby store’s fresh meat counter too much to resist. Although looking at them, they might have first chosen the Red Bull aisle to perk themselves up!

At this juncture, visions of free to fly nocturnal birds reeking havoc amongst the chicken, beef and lamb aisle popped into my fertile but unpredictable mind.

In these neurological scenes the plot moved on apace after they’d had their fill of pilfered meat. These birds, from the order of Strigiformes, then choosing to escape by flying off towards the nearby Elland Road football ground.

A hundred yards behind them, their two handlers ran forlornly after them; shaking their gloved fists and beckoning for the owls to return with an inept yell of “Come back, you forgot to pick up your Nectar points!”…… Unsurprisingly, their feathered chums ignored this request.

Eventually, the out of breath handlers reached the Drysalters pub a few hundred yards from the shopping centre, where they gave up this fruitless chase as a bad job.

Gasping for air, one turned to the other and, with burning lungs from his run, informed him “Never mind, I chuffing hate owls anyway!…. Fancy a pint?” To which the other handler responded by nodding in affirmation.

They then threw their thick bird of prey handling gloves in a nearby bin and strolled carefree into the Drysalters for alcoholic sustenance.

Later they were joined by the supermarket manager, who has come to drown his sorrows after learning his lost chicken and meat stock isn’t insured against theft by owls.

Anyway my random avian vision stopped at that point. Back in the real world (well almost), I put a £1 coin in the owl sanctuary collection bucket, told a puzzled looking handler “You really shouldn’t be looking after owls if you hate them!” and headed towards the supermarket to join my parents.

On the car journey back to their Wakefield domicile, my mum asked what I’d been up to while I’d waited for them. I responded I’d not done much to occupy myself, other than a bit of owl watching.

With tongue firmly pressed in cheek, my septuagenarian mum informed me I’d wasted my time and had displayed poor cognitive behaviour. Concluding that:-

“Your problem Gary is that you’ve absolutely no imagination!”

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