It was 1989 and I was studying Cross-Stitch at FFU (Feathered Fools University) while remaining a half-hearted member of The North American Birds Club/Association. (They couldn’t decide between the two – ‘Both Sound Brilliant, Don’t You Think?’ was the Club/Association’s motto.) To commemorate the life of the famous Cricket Eater, Don Birdman, the Club/Association decided to recreate the arrival of the First Fleet on Australian Shores.
This twelve minute university stage show was deemed A Roaring Success and was nominated for several Lyrebird awards.
“And the Large Trophy for Best Performance by a Robin Dressed As An Anchor goes to…”
My fingers were crossed so tightly my 400 kilogram anchor costume nearly fell off.
“…David Doesn’t-Have-His-Fingers-Crossed O’Shannessy!”
I knew that couldn’t be me because my name isn’t David O’Shannessy, but my finger were uncrossed by this time as I’d become pretty confident. I watched him flutter up onstage – he was such a graceful character, and I hated him. I hated him for winning and I hated him for not wearing his costume to the awards ceremony, because I stood out like a sore thumb (which now had several sore fingers). I loudly protested to the adjudicator, who went on to say,
‘David was the most convincing performer on the night. You fell over and were afraid to jump in the Northern Saw-Whet Owls Dressed As Water when the Hermit Thrush Dressed As A Boat stopped.’
‘I was tripped up by a Red Finch Dressed As A Convict! And I could see a small tiger in the waves. It Was All Very Overwhelming.’
As I continued to argue my case and demand Heavy Compensation, I spotted in the far corner of the 1600 seat auditorium (I had incredible eyesight at the time due to a telescope perched in front of me ready for the Albatross Astronomy Awards later that evening) O’Shannessy's best friend Marcus the Mountain Quail, dabbing off the remains of his tiger-esque makeup.
Angrily, I pelted a wingful of throat lozenges in The Large Trophy's direction. I was rather ill at the time, and all of my comments had come out in a hoarse, gravelly voice, which didn’t work in my favour, as the adjudicator was singer/songwriter Tom Waits and I think he thought I was making fun of him.
The team of eucalyptus scented tablets landed two feet away from me and into the lap of a confused looking field mouse who was instantly set upon by a ravenous group of sore throated red-tailed hawks, so I grabbed my beret and leapt into the mid-afternoon floor-of-the-auditorium. My current attire had deeply failed me in the aerodynamics department.