Richard Bond’s seven-hour drive with a sick parrot was no Monty Python joke

Interior design practice partner Richard Bond with his Mercedes SL350
Interior design practice partner Richard Bond with his Mercedes SL350
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Richard Bond and partner Jamie run multi award-winning Interior Design practice Jamie Hempsall Ltd near Retford.

They spend their time making people’s worlds more beautiful (and practical) places throughout the UK and abroad and Richard is a tireless volunteer with Macmillan Cancer Support and the Terrence Higgins Trust, working on major donor development and national volunteer strategy. He was recently appointed UK Chair of Macmillan’s new UK Volunteer Forum.

I never consider myself a “petrol head”. I always say I am happy to drive anything provided it gets me around in one piece. And after qualifying as an accountant, I did drive a series of ordinary company cars for years.

But whenever I purchase a car myself, despite having every intention of going for something cheap and economical, that never seems to happen. For example... the time I bought my own wheels I ended up with a Jaguar XJS.

It was unbelievably thirsty (£40 for a full tank nearly 20 years ago). However, there was little to compare to the noisy throb from its engine. It was sublime when you fired her up and a joy when you put your foot down.

Five years ago, I decided to change my Mercedes ML350 (a brilliant workhorse for anyone running an interior design practice). I left determined to buy a Fiat Cinquecento – and came back with a new Mercedes SLK, the rationale being that the Merc worked perfectly with my iPhone.

Last year, I was similarly adamant that my sports car days were over and what I really needed was a small runabout – a Nissan Juke or a RAV3.

The end result? My Mercedes SL350. Though owning it has proved the closest I have come to the joy experienced with the XJS, only without the crippling fuel costs. It appears I am not comfortable without a large engine under the bonnet (and a top that comes off at the touch of a button).

I have had many motoring adventures over the years, but the most memorable was while Jamie Hempsall and I were visiting a friend in Spain who happens to be a major parrot breeder.

One day my friend asked us to “nip” from our mountain location to take a sick parrot for medical treatment in Madrid. He assured us the drive would only take a couple of hours.

Geography is not my strong point (I am a slave to my Sat Nav), but even I questioned this. However, I was assured it was definitely the case and we and the sick parrot were dispatched in our friend’s BMW Touring, a single €500 note in our wallet to cover any expenses.

On punching the vet’s address into the Sat Nav, the device advised us the journey would take seven hours. We decided it must surely be wrong, only to realise an hour into the journey that it was clearly correct and a hideous drive lay ahead.

Our poorly parrot passenger was a valuable hyacinth macaw worth considerably more than the car. And, we realised, we were transporting her without her identity papers at a time when some serious avian smuggling was going on.

I was dutifully following the speed limit down a winding mountainside stretch, but everyone was overtaking us so I decided to speed up. And of course, there was a police roadblock at the bottom booking EVERYONE.

We were without documentation for either car or parrot and getting in a bit of a sweat. I gave the policeman my passport, but as it left my grasp I suddenly remembered I had stored the €500 note in its pages. The officer looked agog, so all I could do was pretend I didn’t understand a word of Spanish. Eventually he gave up, handed back the passport and Euro note and issued us with a fine – which took all our other cash.

We hit Madrid at 10pm, tired and worried about our cargo. The vet was waiting, ready to operate. But within an hour, tests confirmed the mystery emergency was... a parrot suffering from a sexually-transmitted disease. It had got chlamydia!

Trying to pay for dinner at midnight with a €500 note proved nigh-on impossible and to cap it all, we realised we couldn’t check into a hotel with a parrot in tow. So had to drive straight back.

After 14 hours of driving we were dishevelled and exhausted. The parrot was absolutely fine of course. Apparently she loves a car journey!