Tia, ca. 1. Feb 2007 – 3. Feb 2015

                    From left: Talion, Titus, and Tia

When I walked into a dodgy little pet shop in early November 2007, I had no idea that upon leaving, I’d be carrying my heart, no longer in my chest but in two small transport boxes, containing two adorable little budgies I’d already named Tia and Mirias.

I’d found them in an overfull cage, much too exposed to the customers of the store, and poor Tia was constantly fluttering from one side to the other in utter panic. She was the prettiest of all the birds in the cage, yellow and an exotic kind of green. It made me think of one of the female characters in Pirates of the Caribbean – and at that moment, my then-boyfriend who’d joined me in front of that cage, said: “You should call her for that voodoo woman in Pirates of the Caribbean. What was her name again?”

I exclaimed: “I’ve just been thinking of her too! Her name was… hang on… oh yes, Tia Dalma!” We hadn’t seen the movie recently or anything, it was what some people would call a co-incidence. I say, it simply was her name. 

                  I had a very bad camera at the time, hence the washed-out look! You can 
                  see how young she was because her eyes are big and black without the 
                  “rings” around them older budgies have.

Tia and Mirias became friends quickly, then fell in sugary-sweet love. They were the original “cutest” and whilst Tia was so paranoid she convinced every other budgie around her not to become tame either, I did develop a close relationship with her. 

Tia was a little daft sometimes, but at the same time the most intelligent of my budgies. I had entire conversations with her, and while I’m not silly enough to claim she understood what I said, she understood the tone and what was behind it, and she’d “answer” in an appropriate tone every time.

               This was about the furthest apart Tia and Mirias ever got from each other!
These two were my companions through the years, they moved house with me several times and went through so much stuff with me – often scared, but always such troopers. They loved some places, disliked others. All in all, we were happy. I even let them breed one time, and Tia laid seven perfect eggs, but they turned out to be infertile – probably hormonal problems on Mirias’s side.

                 Tia’s first 3 eggs.

Tia had the most varied chirps and taught first Mirias, then after his untimely death my other budgies, lots of new notes and tunes. I’ve never had a budgie with such a varied, beautiful voice.

My Tia budgie. My sweet, mad, funny, and utterly adorable little Tia.

She loved Mirias to a fault. We mourned him together when he died of a weird wound under his wing, scared and in pain in the vet’s office and feeling betrayed by me. Mirias’s death still haunts me and always will, and I swore to myself to never do that to another of my birds.

                 Tia and Titus

Tia survived her first mate by four years and after her initial grief (budgies mate for life, unless a mate dies), she found Titus. They weren’t quite as close as she and Mirias had been but they still adored each other, and when Tia developed an awful tumor on her lower belly and fell sick in December, Titus actually sat cuddled up to her for hours to keep her warm. I can’t even tell you how amazing this is; it’s not something usual in budgies (they do caress each other’s heads sometimes, but aren’t otherwise very touchy-feely).

Tia had never been sick a day in her life. ALL my other budgies have felt off sometimes, and bounced back, but she had a rock-solid health and immune system. So when I found her too fluffy and on two legs instead of one, and saw that awful swelling, I instantly knew it was serious.

But my brave Tia got back to her normal chirpy self again after a few days, and for another month, was almost normal. I prayed the tumor might be benign. Either way, a vet couldn’t have done much. Budgies are so small, surgery is very risky and kills them more often than not. I had sworn not to put another bird through the trauma Mirias had experienced, and I wasn’t going to expose my Tia to the terror of going to the vet – not her, my little drama queen who had never come any closer to being tame than she had been on the first day.

After a few weeks of “normality”, her illness caught up with her, and this time she wasn’t getting better. I kept hoping although deep down inside I knew.

A few days before her death I told her it was ok to go. That she should fight as long as she could, but if it was too much and she was in pain, she should let go and it was ok and I’d understand.

                   The last picture of Tia

On Tuesday, 3. February, she began to look disoriented. She “fell” and caught herself to land on one of the lower perches of the aviary, and had trouble coming back up. She ended up climbing on the side of the cage, and Talion, the sweetie, flew down to cheer her on and show her the way.

When they had their “dinner” that night, Tia went to the food tray with the others, but looked confused and didn’t eat. The others flew off when they were done, but Tia stayed on the food tray. 

I knew it was time, and I wasn’t going anywhere. 

I said good night to them and got comfortable on the sofa in the dark. I kept watch, I dozed, and at one point Tia began to scramble, it sounded like she was scratching away seeds in the food bowl. I talked to her softly, told her how much I loved her and that she needn’t be scared. Then she was still.

I didn’t want to disturb them by checking to confirm whether she was truly dead, and when everything remained quiet I actually went upstairs to get a few hours of sleep. When I came down in the morning, I found her in the food bowl, dead.

So many tears followed. I am devastated at the loss of my stalwart companion of 7 years. She was exactly 8 years old. I’d always promised her we’d get our own place, without scary noises from neighbours. She never lived to see the place.

If I’m heartbroken, Titus is even more so. He actually got sick at first, he was inconsolable. Now he’s picking up, but he’s still quiet. All of us are. Talion misses Tia almost as much as Titus; he was the first budgie I bought after Mirias had died, and he was still a baby, only six weeks old at the time. He worshipped Tia with a kind of puppy-dog love, and he misses her a lot. Even Tracey misses her “girlfriend” – the two had an unusual understanding (normally budgie hens don’t get along).

My one comfort is that she had as beautiful a death as she could have had, and the exact opposite of Mirias’s. She was at home, where she felt safe, in her beloved aviary, with the others close by and my voice telling her she wasn’t alone. She didn’t fall on the floor or hurt herself. She didn’t struggle, it was all over in a few seconds. I am so grateful for that.

Both my original “cutest” are gone now, flying high in green fields. Mirias has long left me, but I sometimes feel my Tia still around. She went from Tia-budgie to Tia-spirit and I’m pretty sure Titus feels her too. He’s so far resisted Tracey’s attempts at getting closer to him; maybe in future they will become mates. We’ll see.

For now, we all need to heal the Tia-shaped hole in our hearts.

Manannán Mac Lir

So, a few weeks ago a valuable statue of the sea god Manannán Mac Lir in Northern Ireland was stolen. It was replaced with a wooden cross with the words: “You shall have no other gods before me”.

Whilst this kind of occurrence wouldn’t have been unusual in some parts of the world, it is very unusual indeed over here. Neither the UK nor Ireland see a lot of religious fanaticism, which is remarkable especially in Ireland, a country which has been practically ruled by the Catholic church until fairly recently. When I first came to Ireland 25 years ago, it was still a very Catholic country – much more so than it is today – but I was struck by the “live and let live” attitude the vast majority of people had. It’s one of the nicest things about the people around here: we mind our own business.

It saddens me that it has come to this. Now if you know me at all, you’ll know that I’m a firm believer in the good in people and never tire of pointing out that our world gets safer and better all the time. I’m not going to hail the end of religious freedom in my part of the world; this was an isolated incidence. But it still saddens me, not only because the theft has hit a very gifted artist (the statue’s creator is John Sutton) and destroyed a popular tourist attraction of the area, but it’s also removed one of the few pieces of “pagan art” around here. Manannán, son of the sea, is a truly ancient deity and was thought to be the first ruler of the Isle of Man, which got its name from him.

The interesting thing is that the theft has brought a lot of publicity for Manannán, which is probably not what the criminals had intended. It’s a beautiful side effect which to me proves how just life can be sometimes. You meant to remove the ancient sea god? Well, actually you only succeeded in bringing him back into everybody’s consciousness – in yer face, assholes!

I believe the best way to react to what happened is to keep that spotlight on, to remember, hail, read about, and otherwise honour the mighty Manannán Mac Lir. It’ll strengthen not only the memory of the old deities, but also the many, many peaceful christians on these islands who wouldn’t dream of dishonouring or shaming another’s god.

Here’s a poem by a friend of mine, who incidentally has a book of poetry coming up (I’ll link that when it’s published so watch this space!). 

What’s His Name?

Sure you know him
his name is Manannán Mac Lir
the bloke that’s God of the Sea
When you call him softly
by any old shore
he’s there as clear as can be.

O Manannán Mac Lir
is a fine old fellow
and an honourable friend of mine
O Manannán Mac Lir
has his wits about him
just about most of the time.

I remember one day
not that long ago
when he decided to call me
so in I went
mask, flippers and snorkel
plunging right into the sea

He mused “Johny mate,
we’ve been pals
for what seems like a long, long while;
any chance of doing me a favour?”
then he winked with a devious smile

I says “Manannán me man<
well you know me
and I’ll assist you as best I can.”
So down we went
to his underwater palace
where he says “this is me plan!”

“Now Johny old bean
for this last while
things just haven’t been the same
for those who used to know me
and leave me offerings
have forgotten me and my name

Now don’t get me wrong
for it’s not all bad
with a belly full of seaweed and fish
but when the sun does shine
it all tastes like brine
so please hear my desperate wish

O Johny by Crom!
you know I’m not selfish
but my wish is that you’d write me a rime
to tell those humans
the bloody eejits
to brew me a few oceans of wine!”

©2015 John-Paul Patton

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