A Word In Your Ear - February 4, 2016

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“Now here’s one for you to mull,” said retired Wigan miner Jack in a corner of my local at Great Marton. He eyed me with a gleam of challenge. “What do you call a group of owls?”

We were in the Commons, the cosy locals’ room at Blackpool’s oldest pub, the Saddle Inn. That might have given me a clue in answer to the crafty codger.

Such interesting titbits of knowledge and matters of life in general are much talked about in that noisy, drink-fuelled chamber – rather like that other, similarly named, place.

Jack and his ex-Navy pal Paul have caught me previously with a chattering of starlings and a murder of crows, though I’d got my own back with an exaltation of larks.

I mentioned spotting a small owl recently on a field gatepost by busy Progress Way, across Marton Moss. She Who Knows had also seen them in late afternoons near Marton Mere, back when riding her horse.

“Aye, barn owls,” observed Jack. “Used to see ‘em occasionally there when I ‘ad the dog – miss walking him too.”

Fortunately a neighbour let him occasionally take out her poodle, though Jack was loathe to to shout after it – since it was outlandishly named Elvis.

All this prompted a general debate in the Commons about dog walking, bird spotting and wildlife in general. Who says a pint in the pub is a waste of your time?

But time was getting on and Jack watching his alcohol intake – being a wise old owl.

There, too, was a clue. After all, what is supposed to be wise but makes you hoot at times?

“Do you know the answer or not?” he demanded, tired of my evasion.

Youngsters with smart phones already had it on their screens but, unlike us, would forget it almost as quickly.

It was, of course, a parliament.

* For Roy’s books, visit royedmonds-blackpool.com.