Anyway, as I hobbled back through the front gate, I noticed a large young crow in the front garden. He was bouncy and noisy as well as big, so I wasn't unduly bothered about him. Crows are pretty good parents and since I live amongst hundreds of them, I was pretty sure that there were parents hopping around nearby.
When I awoke this morning, he was sitting on the front lawn looking wet and much less perky. He brightened up as the damp grey morning lengthened into a fairly bright lunch time. calling hungrily for some room service.
I pointed him out to mum. 'I don't like the look of him,' I said. 'And there is no sign of any of the crows paying him any attention or delivering him food.' I watched him flapping around under the bushes like a scruffy black duster. 'Well, do what you feel is right,' said mum, packing up her stuff and getting ready to catch the ferry home after a week of tending to me hand and foot.
'Maybe I should just leave him alone? Feed him? I dunno what to do for the best.' Juno snapped shut her case and checked again that she had her Jackie Collins packed safely. 'I told you, just do what you feel is right,' she said.
After she had gone, I continued to watch the crow and googled various articles about the pros and cons of feeding fledglings (basically: don't). But still no adults came near him. His cries became less frequent.
After lunch, I decided to ignore the internet advice and just listen to my gut and hobbled out to see if I could catch him. I know. I can't even bend down to pull on my boots properly, but still thought that I could catch a crow.
He sat quietly on the lawn and let me approach him. Oh dear, this was not good at all.
I stepped closer and he looked at me with a dark, shining and inquisitive eye. I figured that if I could just get some water into him, he might perk up. I knelt on the grass and checked that my trusty syringe had water in it. A legacy of working for the Veterinary Charity for a decade or so - always have a syringe handy. And a can of dog food. And then I reached forward. And he hopped towards me. Oh this was SO not good.
Would he let me pick him up? He would. I threw a towel over him to stop him from getting upset, but even as I carried him into the house, I knew that he would die.
I carefully placed him into a box and took him into the gloom of the downstairs toilet . I sat on the loo seat, unwrapped the tea towel from around his silent, black head and gently prised open his beak to squirt a few drops of water into his mouth. I closed his beak and stroked his throat to encourage him to swallow.
He felt cold.
I put him inside my cardigan. He barely moved. I sat there for a while wondering what to do.
Our booze stash is kept next to the downstairs loo so I quickly located a bottle of Whisky. Grouse. Seemed appropriate. By this time I pretty much knew that he was dying - maybe a cat had got at him? or maybe a car had hit him? I opened his beak again and squirted a measure down. Nothing.
His eye was still bright, but it no longer blinked. He was gone.
I sat him on the kitchen table and gently unfolded his wings, marveling at the inky iridescence of his feathers, stroking the soft down of his head and wishing with all my heart that I'd gone out earlier, even just half an hour earlier, to try to help him.
The clock now said 3pm. Sonshine would be in from school soon. What to do? He might never get the chance to be this close to such a beautiful bird again - should I let him unfurl the wings as I had just done? draw his fingers over the ribs of the feathers? Have another, deeper, conversation about death?
I wrapped the dark and lifeless body as gently as I could in a tea towel and put it into a less than reverential plastic bag. And put the plastic bag into the swing bin. Not a very fitting end to such a lovely thing.
Sonshine burst through the door a few minutes later: 'Where's the crow? Did a cat get him? Have you seen him?'
I handed him a Wagon Wheel and a glass of diluting juice as he slid onto a seat at the kitchen table. 'Have you seen him, mum?' he repeated.
'Yes,' I replied slowly, treading carefully and truthfully. 'I saw him earlier today - calling for his mum and dad to feed him.'
'And. They came and fed him and, as far as I know, he has flown into the little wooded area next door, ready to start his Big Adventure out of the nest.' Part of me was disgusted with myself for taking the easy option and lying about the crow, but the part of me that wants to see my child happy was militantly unrepentant. There is time enough for death, especially the death of a bird.
'Ah, great - all day I've been wondering whether he's ok. I can relax now,' he smiled.
'Yes,' I smiled. 'You don't need to worry about him any more.'