Our daily experience is filled with little events which are very quickly forgotten. Occasionally there is reason for these things to lodge in our memory for longer. Many years ago there was a brief event in the surgery waiting room which left most people there with tears of laughter rolling down their faces. It only lasted a few minutes, but I expect everyone present will remember it for as long as they live. This was one little event which is worth sharing:

Mr Smith was manager of the local Co-op supermarket. A meek and mild mannered man with spectacles and grey hair, he loved his cat and always did what he could to help it. Unfortunately for him we were about to discover that not all that grey hair was his own, and the sequence of events around it was funnier than any comedy sketch.

Against all advice Mr Smith always released his cat from its carry basket to sit on his knee in the waiting room, to be stroked reassuringly while waiting.

Miss Eggbert had a peculiar habit of laughing nervously every time she said anything. She looked uncomfortable in any social situation and even by late middle age had not quite learned to cope with meeting people, but she too always did her best to help her cat. A nervous involuntary laugh punctuated everything she did.

On this particular evening, a well dressed young man proudly entered the waiting room with an African Grey Parrot perched regally on his shoulder. This was also not what we would have recommended, but I must admit the bird had the poise, confidence and character to command anyone's attention.

Several other people with dogs on leads completed the picture. All was calm until one of the dogs barked loudly and unexpectedly. This was too much for Mr Smith's cat which decided the best response was to  gain extra height. It scrambled hurriedly from his knee, up his chest and onto his head. Spectacles went flying and a perfect disc of lovingly positioned toupee was re-positioned unceremoniously over Mr Smith's left ear. Now this is not something we British tend to laugh at openly and most people stifled any sound. Miss Eggbert however had no chance and responded with her usual nervous titter. One of the happiest features of laughter is its infectious nature and several people involuntarily took the cue and joined in. What nobody had expected was that the African Grey's favourite party piece was to produce the sound of very human and very loud laughter. This it now did at full volume and completely without any British reserve. Bobbing its head energetically, it clearly enjoyed the opportunity to show off this particular trick. The energy of the parrot was soon matched by the heartiness of the guffaws now being released with complete abandon by almost everyone. The parrot seemed to love the whole thing, the dogs just looked bemused, but the poor cat now left Mr Smith's head and attempted to climb the Venetian blinds over the waiting room window. Poor Mr Smith was torn mercilessly between 3 equal imperatives and tried simultaneously to find his glasses, re-adjust his migrating headpiece and rescue his mountaineering cat, to the accompaniment of half a dozen people and one parrot all laughing like they had been tied down and tickled.

I have to add that the receptionist was the first to recover her poise and Mr Smith's cat was soon returned, slightly ruffled but unharmed, to its carry basket. No real harm was done and I quite like to imagine that imperious parrot relaying the same story about funny humans to any bird which will listen. It really was a very funny 5 minutes.

Written by: Dr. John Cousins BVSc MRCVS