If I had to sum this book up in a word? Creepy. It's a multipurpose volume: first, a manual on how not to keep owls, and second, a giddying window into the psychopathology of a 1950s public schoolboy. It ends with our Etonian giving his owls "female hormones".
Oh, the horror. I wonder what happened to them all. Here are some snippets....
"Putting them to bed was quite the most exhausting task of the day, since as soon as the lights went out at 9.45 I had to rely on my torch. The owls knew very well that this was not adequate, and there would be a mad chase around the room. They either ran on their flat feet or, when they could, flew. They found the most original hiding places, like under the grate of the fireplace, or in my cricket boots. When found or caught, there would be a volley of piercing squawks and they would scratch until blood and bad language flowed quite freely. Sometimes if they were lively I would put on a fives glove, make them sit on my protected hand and move my arm vigorously up and down. This cause them to lose their balance and flap their wings. In the end two very exhausted owls would be put to sleep in their cage"
"When they had been at school for a week and were obviously not going to die, the problem of what I was going to call them arose."
"Dee and Dum were always a bit nervous of women, perhaps because they were handled so much by boys"
"A boy in his pyjamas and a bleeding House Master up a tree at night was no usual sight!"
"Sometimes I used to give them worms covered in feathers, which crawled across the table like some strange caterpillar"
"It soon became a nightly sight to see the wild owl waiting for Dum, who had the same habits as Cupid when he visited Psyche...I hated this wild owl at first, with its weird hoot, and was sorely tempted to shoot it on the chimney as it waited for Dum. Why should it come and take away Dum after all the trouble I had taken? Was this justice?"
"Often when my mother held out her bare arm to alight upon they would both land together and begin to fight for the possession of it. One can imagine the state of a delicate bare arm after two owls have been fighting on it"