Out of the Blue
Lots of books are inspired by true events in the real world. Art imitating life. But imagine how weird it would be if you’d written a fantasy and one of your characters turned up living in your neighbourhood? Life imitating art? It’s enough to give you goosebumps. Especially when the character is causing quite a disturbance.
Signs appeared ‘out of the blue’, according to a BBC television report, warning motorists in Stansted Mountfitchet to slow down because of an unusual hazard – ‘Peacocks crossing’. And who is the leader of the gang? ‘The notorious Percy,’ says the news reporter.
Percy the Peacock is very much alive and appears to have found a much grander home beyond the pages of the novel. (Osmaston Hall clearly wasn’t posh enough.) He has taken up residence at Mountfitchet Castle! He even has his own ‘entourage’ of peahen wives. Good old Percy!
Now you might argue that I must have heard about him and filed him away in my memory before I began writing the book. But the thing is Percy appeared in the first draft of my story in 2006. With a spectacular cry that makes him better than any guard dog, he has a very noisy and dramatic role.
The real-life Percy also has an impressive shriek, one that sometimes ruffles a few feathers in Stansted. If you listen to the news report you’ll discover he calls day and night and ‘he’s famous for basically annoying most of the residents.’
I’m not surprised. Experts say peacocks cry most during the breeding season which lasts from spring to August. That’s a lot of shouting. And here’s what they sound like.
One sleep-deprived neighbour in Chapel Hill told the Herts and Essex Observer: “I’d like to be full of the joys of spring and Percy may be a handsome fellow, but his sex screeching is keeping me awake every night.
“The noise carries across the village and has a distressing, unworldly aspect which shocks you out of slumber. He just won’t shut up.
“I feel like I’m under siege from a very noisy avian army and frankly I’m starting to wonder what he might taste like, plucked, stuffed and roasted.”
Mountfitchet Castle is a fun family trip. It has a reconstructed 1066 motte and bailey fortress and medieval village to explore. If you go, please say hello to Percy from me. (And ask him to kindly pipe down.)