Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Peacock & Chips Anyone?

Kevin the peacock rules the roost in Breadsall

Residents in a small village in Derbyshire reveal how they are being terrorised by a peacock called Kevin.

When Kevin the peacock crash-landed in the Derbyshire village of Breadsall, the locals were more bemused than bothered.
Soon, they reasoned, the bird would regain its bearings and head back to whichever stately home or ornamental park it had come from.
Instead, Kevin did what peacocks tend to do. Which is to take the joint over.
It has pecked its way through entire gardens, paralysed traffic by taking naps in the main road, terrorised the village hall’s cleaning lady and caused mass sleep deprivation.
That’s the trouble with having an uninvited peacock in your village. After a few weeks you stop thinking about how beautiful they are, and start wondering what they taste like.
The worst thing Kevin does is try to attract a mate. This involves hoisting its impressive tail feathers and screeching at 115 decibels — roughly the sound level you hear when a fighter jet takes off, or from the front row of a Twisted Sister concert.
The opening blast comes at around 5am when the bird wakes up to discover it’s still single. Then, from the vantage point of an overnight roost in a pine tree, it lets loose for real.
The contrast between a peacock’s outer loveliness and the sordid racket it makes has to be nature’s idea of a joke – one that is starting to wear thin in Breadsall. But at least it makes the bird easy to find.
You simply stand in the middle of the otherwise sleepy village and listen for what sounds like an axe-murder. Or the air-horn of a runaway truck.
I found Kevin sitting pretty on an ornamental tree stump behind Prem Singh’s house in Church Lane. One morning, Mr Singh, 56, the former chief executive of Derby NHS, looked out of his French windows to see 1,000 eyes looking back.
“I thought, 'my God’,” he said. “I was completely stunned. Normally you’d expect to see a few starlings, and here was this huge great thing about six feet long swishing around the garden.”
Peacocks originate from India, where, Mr Singh said: “Some Indians think they bring good luck.”
Not that his tolerance hasn’t been tested. Kevin quickly learned to home in on the bowls of food left out for Mr Singh’s cats, Millie and Rossi.
“He seems to love the stuff,” Mr Singh tells me, “but I’m not sure it loves him. You wouldn’t believe the mess he makes.
“I think he’s fantastic, though. He’s a real character. I call him The Captain after Captain Peacock [Frank Thornton’s character in Are You Being Served]. We’ve no idea where he came from, but he doesn’t show much sign of wanting to leave.”
Kevin’s provenance is, indeed, a mystery. With so much plumage to haul around, peacocks can only fly short distances and rarely stray far from their regular turf.
Yet no one near Breadsall has reported one missing, and inquiries by the local policeman, Russ Crooks, appear to have led nowhere.
At one point a posse, led by Simon Dowling, a local smallholder, was formed to catch Kevin only to discover — as John Humphrys recounted in The Telegraph last week — that the birds are fiendishly hard to lay hands on.
“We thought we’d got him cornered at one point,” says Linda Morris, one of the six-strong peacock patrol, which included Pc Crooks. “
But at the last minute he jumped over a wall and into the next-door garden. There have been a few other attempts and they’ve all failed.”
So, the months have slipped by, and Kevin’s grip on the village has tightened. Residents sleep to the hours the bird permits, traffic moves in sync with the bird’s own movements.
Lately it has been taking on a more activist role, turning up to watch fixtures at the tennis club, monitoring Sunday attendances at All Saints’ Church and making unscheduled inspections of the local primary school.
“We’re not really sure what to do about him,” admits Chris Goodwin, the parish council chairman. “Some people love having him here, but you do get grumbles about the noise, and we have concerns about him being a road hazard.
"Not long ago a cyclist nearly came off his bike because of Kevin, and sometimes he just sits in the road and holds up all the traffic and the drivers get pretty cross about it.”
Then there’s the fear factor. Peacocks aren’t usually aggressive – effectively they are pheasants in finery – but close up they can look and sound scary.
Earlier this year, Jackie Payne was cleaning the Memorial Hall when she saw Kevin advancing across the car park.
Too nervous to leave, she locked herself in the lavatory, eventually resorting to throwing biscuits out of the window to distract him until she could escape.
“It’s not the sort of problem we’ve had before as a parish council,” admits Mrs Goodwin. “I suppose we’re really hoping that his owner will turn up and take possession of him.”
For now, though, it’s Kevin taking possession of the village.

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