Walk Like a Parrot

It has to be the most unhelpful instruction I have ever received.

I was in the Amazon area of Peru, out travelling up river with my friend K, and our guide.  We had stopped at a village for a break and were walking around, although it was quite boggy underfoot.  In one particularly wet area there was a log across which we were required to walk to avoid losing our boots in the mud.  I watched the guide trot quickly across, one foot in front of the other; but as soon as I started I wobbled extravagantly, and fearful of falling off I stopped.

‘Walk like a parrot’, the guide called across to me.

‘What on earth do you mean?’ I shouted back, loud enough to be heard over K’s hysterical laughter. ‘How do parrots walk?’  My grandmother had a parrot, and my mind was racing to try to remember if I’d ever seen it move anywhere other than perched on her shoulder.

‘On the side.’  The guide turned and demonstrated, moving his feet taking small sideways steps.

Once I had stopped laughing, I sidled my way across the muddy pond, determined to observe the next parrot I saw most closely.  Of course, when I came across the one whose photo appears above, it didn’t walk sideways at all….

Subsequently, however, this phrase has, like so many idiosyncratic, but memorable exchanges, entered the special idiom that I share with friends.  It’s used whenever someone had offered an entirely unhelpful comment or suggestion to a problem or negotiation.

Once I started thinking about this, other little phrases come to mind.  Things that would mean nothing without the background and context or the shared experienced.  They are part of the tapestry of friendship and shared experiences, like nicknames, or those conversations that start ‘Do you remember when….?’

On another trip with K, we were in the jungle in Guatemala visiting the Mayan ruins at Tical.  At the time it was a long journey to get there with limited transport options, and because of travel schedules we had to stay three nights, which gave us more than ample time to see everything at a very leisurely pace.  We spent some time with a Dutch couple, also there for perhaps a little longer than they really wanted.

To keep ourselves amused, K and I arranged to have a walk in the jungle with a guide and asked the couple if they would like to join us.  When she accepted, the woman said ‘Of course, what else to do?’

‘What else to do?’ has become the phrase to use when there is no doubt about what we should do next.

So, there’ll be another post tomorrow, because, what else to do?

Leave a comment


  1. margaret nickels

     /  August 19, 2011

    Many moons ago whilst with a group of young Yorkshire students the staff were aware that there had been a lot of visits to the toilet in the night . I reasoned if there were anything untoward then one of them would contact one of us.In the morning we casually enquired about the nocturnal activity : Well there were nowt else to do !


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