Little Gigolo

Guest Blog by Sandra Clayton

David and I were anchored in Nassau Harbour in the Bahamas. It was my birthday and, asked what I wanted to do, I plumped for the Ardastra Gardens. I’m not a fan of zoos but I’d heard about its famous Marching Flamingos and I was curious. At the same time I was uneasy about how you persuade such flighty creatures as flamingoes into something as regimented as marching without coersion. 

I needn’t have worried. It was more of a lurch than a march, with their human Sergeant Major expertly choreographing their natural inclination to surge off en masse in random directions and then stop and look about them. Marching or not, it was hugely entertaining and very good natured. 

The little guy above also earned his living at the Ardastra Gardens doing what came naturally. He was not the Meeter-and-Greeter, that post being held by a Vietnamese pot bellied pig. Although, to tell the truth, the day we visited she was asleep on the job. The cockatoo’s role was more a Thank-You-For-Coming, with his supervisor popping him onto my shoulder and a scoop of bird seed into my hand for a final photo-op as we neared the exit. 

I wasn’t at all thrilled at having such a wicked-looking beak that close to my face. So I was mortified when the man said, “Give the lady a kiss, Charlie,” and the bird dutifully lowered his head. At the very moment my mind went blank with panic, however, I became aware of the most delightful sensation imaginable. Using only the smooth curve of his unexpectedly warm beak and his warm round tongue, Charlie was gently, seductively, caressing my left earlobe. 

It was so different from what I’d been expecting that I burst out laughing. Cockatoos tend to be a bit inscrutable and from his expression here I’m not sure if he was offended, or just quietly pleased with the effect he had just achieved. I’d like to think he was pleased. I know I was. 


In the late ‘90s Sandra Clayton and her husband David sold up their home and set sail in a 40-foot catamaran. Since then they have covered around 40,000 miles and visited more than twenty countries. Nobody needs to sail to enjoy her books. They are written for anyone interested in travel, people and places and a different way of life. 

Her second book about their travels, Turtles In Our Wake, was published by Bloomsbury in March 2012. A third is due out next Spring. 

To learn more:


Posted on June 22, 2012, in Memoir, Travel. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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