More Short Stories about Grip the Rook

Part 2: Getting to Grips with Life!


My hair stylist Grip and Mr Bert, our close family friend.

Back in the 1950s when I was in my mid teens, Mr Bert, a very dear family friend then in his 90s, came to stay with us in Burlington Drive, Beltinge. He and my pet Rook, Grip, got on pretty well until one fine Summer’s day in the garden.

Bored with tending my hair, Grip swooped from my shoulder to share Mr Bert’s deckchair. Suddenly there was a yelp and an exclamation “Get off you old Devil!” Grip had taken a liking to the blue circle printed on the front page of the Daily Mail. He had lunged at it with his beak. Trouble was the blue spot just happened to be covering Mr Bert’s knee!

A Thing About Cheese
Most days Grip knocked loudly on our back door to be let in for his share of cheese. Then he would sidle up to our cat Schuby’s favourite chair, aim a peck at her twitching tail and then sidle away in hasty retreat. Other than that I suppose Grip and Schuby got on quite well.

Grip had a thing about cheese! When we threw a wedge to him, rather than bolt it down, he’d save it for later. He dug a pivot out of the lawn, dropped in his cheese, carefully hidden from sight. But if he realised there were spies about he’d retrieved the cheese, sidle further away and hide it all over again.

When she discovered my “Gripping Yarns” on Facebook, Pat Sargent commented: “We had a crow that my son found after it had fallen from the nest. We called him Joe. As far as he was concerned, our house was his house and he would come to the front door and knock on it and when opened he would walk into the kitchen and jump up on the counter and yell for his food. My most vivid memory was when my mother who had come to visit, got up early in the morning and heard a tapping on the front door. She opened it and I heard “Mother of God a crow has just walked in!”

Fun on the Putting Green!
We set up a putting green in the garden at “Heatherdene”. But with Grip’s help it became a bit of an obstacle course. Whenever we sunk a putt he was on hand to retrieve the ball and charge off across the lawn with it. Come to that, whenever we mowed the putting green lawn Grip would leap into the wheelbarrow and with his powerful beak toss the grass cuttings back over the lawn. He became a main attraction for holiday makers who stayed at my parents’ guest house and for passersby watching from the road.


Much later in life Grip’s putting green antics inspired this painting when I spotted a crow threatening a golf ball on the course close to our home in Hertfordshire.
So I wrote this poem to go with the painting:

Bogie or Birdie
What’s it to be?
Strut to the hole
And putt for the match?
Or go for the snatch
And bunker the ball?
Raucously crowing,
“Let’s handicap all!

My mother with the children.

My mother (top right) with the children.

A Sinister Incident?
Each summer my parents took in children from a London care home. Grip was a huge attraction for them and he took to them quite well. But one young lad tormented Grip. Once we heard yelling and raucous cawing. We dashed out to see Grip chasing the lad and pecking at his heels. We feared Grip would be in trouble but no such thing. The matron in charge of the children simply said Grip had taught the bully a well deserved lesson.

Come Xmas
I’m writing these “Getting to Grip with Life” mini sagas just a few days before Christmas so why not end with Grip’s Xmas antics.

Our house was every bit as much his as ours and at Christmas he wouldn’t be left out. My mother set up our Christmas tree in the dining room, which Grip very quickly discovered. So we left him to his own devises with very own parcel of nuts under the tree while we opened our presents. Next thing we knew, not only had he opened his own package but he had also cracked open most of the the nuts in sight and truly enjoyed his Xmas breakfast. PLUS he had set about helping himself to the tinsel on the tree.

These are tales I have passed on to my children and grandchildren and perhaps, having told them here, my adventures with Grip will be shared far and wide.

Peter M Butler
Editor & Proprietor Jazz&Jazz

Note to Jazz Fans: I’m preparing a series of short stories about my early years to be featured on Jazz&Jazz. If some of them seem out of place it’s because they precede my jazz years! I first got into jazz in my late teens in Herne Bay so some will include my early jazz adventures. I’m sharing the stories on Herne Bay & Herne Remembered.

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  1. A Sibley says:

    Lovely story Peter, Grip was such an amazing bird, what lovely memories.

  2. Peter Butler says:

    Thank you Alice. I wish we had taken more photos back in those days. When it comes to jazz back in my teens I don’t think I have any photos. I’ll have to dig out the archives!

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