Oscar the Owl was hungry. This was not unusual because finding food was always difficult for him. Sometimes he longed for the old days when he was just a little owlet, stuffed inside the nest with his six brothers and sisters. In those days food was brought to him by his Mum. As soon as she returned with a particular delicacy in her beak Oscar and his brothers and sisters started squeaking with excitement, a noise that was heard throughout the barn where the nest resided. Oscar’s favourite food was mouse but he had have it torn up for him, he could not possibly swallow a whole one.
That was the trouble with his Dad; whenever he brought food home it was never chopped up. On one occasion he deposited a whole mole in the nest, expecting his little owlets to munch it up; not a hope of that, it lay there in the nest for three days until it began to smell rather unpleasant at which point Mum threw it out.
These days Oscar had to catch his own food and, not having paid enough attention when his Mum had tried to teach him, he was not very good at it. In fact, not good at all; mice seemed to elude him with monotonous regularity and even earthworms had no difficulty in evading his clutches – consequently he was hungry.
“Oh, I wish I’d paid attention to my Mum” he complained to his friend, Percy the Pigeon, “if only I’d listened to what she was trying to teach me I wouldn’t be so hungry.”
“Well, well young Oscar, it is clear that you now perceive the errors of a misspent youth.” As you probably remember Percy was a very well-spoken pigeon but, nonetheless, was ready to be critical of this young owl friend if needs be. “If you had spent less time developing your aerobatic skills and dive bombing the garden goldfish with owl pellets you might not have found yourself in this admittedly distressing predicament.”
Oscar could not understand half of what his erudite friend was saying but he recognised that he was being told off. He shifted on his perch, ruffled his feathers and looked very sheepish.
Which was quite appropriate because at that moment a sheep did wander into the farmyard. The unusual thing was that over its back it had slung four plastic bags with one word written on them, WAITROSE. Oscar looked more intently and was able to make out that each bag contained …. food! Oscar could not quite understand why it was wrapped in crinkly containers but there was no doubt about it, it was food. Oscar turned to Percy.
“Percy, that’s food. How does that happen? Is that sheep a good hunter and where does she find it all?”
“Steady on, young owl. You’ll fall off your perch if you’re not careful. Patience and I will enlighten you” Patience was not something that came easily to Oscar but he gritted his beak and listened intently.
“Now Oscar, you observe that the bags hanging over that sheep’s back have a name written on them.” Oscar looked forlorn, he was not yet a wise old owl and he could not read words. He added his head and hoped he could pretend to read the word on the bags.
“Well, young owl,” continued Percy “What does it say?”.
“Oh, it’s no good” wailed Oscar “I can’t read, I really can’t!”
Percy smiled benignly. “No, of course not, it is really only very wise and ancient owls who can learn to read,” Oscar blushed under his feathers. “Well, I shall read it for you. It says WAITROSE.”He stepped back and preened himself.
“WAITROSE, what does that mean? I’ve never heard of it.”
“Oh, young owl. Waitrose is a wondrous place, stuffed full of food of all varieties and types from many parts of the world. You would have no difficulty in acquiring just exactly what you desire at Waitrose”
“Do they have moles?”
The pigeon was somewhat taken aback by that. “I am not sure, perhaps they do.”
“I hate moles. I don’t want any moles even if they do stock them.”
“That is all right then, young Oscar. No moles is the order of the day.”
“I like worms. Do they have them?”
Poor Percy was beginning to get flustered by all these questions but he tried not to let it show. “I do believe they do, worms marinated in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I am told they are delicious.”
“How can we get them, Percy. I’m ravenous!” By now Oscar was hopping up and down with excitement.
“I think that our best strategy would be to enlist the help of that sheep. She knows me well so I am sure she will help.”
Now the sheep whom they had observed carrying the Waitrose bags had disappeared inside the barn so the two birds, pigeon and owl, flew down and perched on the half-opened barn door and peered in. In the gloom they could make out around a dozen sheep, scattered around the barn, munching away on a variety of delicacies that lay on the straw-covered barn floor. One was eating a cabbage, another was working through a packet of croissants, another a bag of muesli. Over in the corner and old, toothless sheep was trying to suck up some spaghetti.
Oscar was amazed to see all this food and turned to Percy. “This is incredible but I can’t see any worms.”
Percy’s unflappability ( a strange virtue in a pigeon) was wearing thin. “These are sheep. Oscar. They would never be seen voluntarily eating worms.” Oscar looked suitably abashed.
“Perhaps they could get me some worms.”
“Perhaps they could, leave it with me. You get back to your tree for the time being. I will come and find you when the time is right.”
Oscar realised that he would have to be patient. He flew back to his old oak tree and tried to make time pass more quickly by rearranging his collection of owl pellets, ready to bomb the goldfish.
The sun was going down when Percy Pigeon reappeared. “Good news, young owl. I have negotiated a deal with Hortensia, that is the name of my sheep friend. She will add an order of two jars of worms, marinated in olive oil and balsamic vinegar every week.” Oscar liked the sound of worms but was a bit doubtful about the ‘marinated’ bit not knowing, as owls are not very well versed in cooking, what ‘marinated’ meant. Still, Percy seemed to think that it was all right so Oscar kept his beak shut. “She requires no payment for this, which is fortunate for you, young owl, but she does have one stipulation.”
Stipulation, thought Oscar, what’s that? It didn’t sound very nice to him. Still he kept his beak shut.
“Do you want to hear what it is?
“Oh yes, yes of course, sorry …. I….” Oscar was covered in confusion
“She is very good friends with Aurora, one of the goldfish in the garden pond. It appears that Aurora is getting very distressed at the bombing raids that come from a certain young owl, who of course shall be nameless. The stipulation is that the bombing raids should stop immediately.
Oscar flushed so deeply it might have been possible to see it through his feathers.
“I’m sorry” he mumbled “Yes, they’ll stop, right away.”
“Good. You can expect your first delivery the day after tomorrow.”
“Thank you, Percy. You have been very good to me.”
“Think nothing of it, young owl. Enjoy your marinated worms.”
Which Oscar did. They were delicious and in time he was brave enough to branch out into other Waitrose delicacies.