I find the task of posting pictures onto my blog tiresome and irritating, so I normally end up posting them on Facebook instead. This means that my blog is not very colourful, and that makes me sad. To remedy this, I could write about and post pictures of the magical and amazing Harry Potter Studio Tour I experienced on Sunday, but that deserves more pictures than I feel like cramming in here, so I’ll scale the whole exercise down and make a post about pigeons instead.
Now hang on a minute. This is not just any old blog entry about pigeons. It’s a blog entry about ginger pigeons. Well, one of them anyway. I know, right? Much more interesting.
I’ve always been fond of pigeons. I like how they walk as though their heads are attached to mechanisms that crank their legs back and forth. I like how they bath in fountains and puddles. I like how they squash their heads down into their puffy necks and sit fatly in the cold. I like how they hang out in jolly groups in underground parking lots when it rains. I like how they crap on sacred things. My fondness for pigeons increased dramatically when a certain rock pigeon showed up at my family’s house in Cape Town. This rock pigeon decided that we were not to be feared and were, in fact, rather useful perches and a good source for seeds and cheese.
I’ve since spread my metaphorical wings (I’d trade them for real, feathery, pigeon wings any day…) and moved to London, leaving my family, my friends and my wonderful rock pigeon behind.
Here in London, I’ve encountered whole new pigeon civilisations. It’s not the sort of thing people generally bother to write about in this great city, so rich in history, activity, culture and gorgeous architecture… But why shouldn’t the pigeons get a mention? They’re here every day, in the air, on the ground, under the feet and in the faces of London’s locals and tourists alike. And I like them.
There are the rangy city pigeons, twitchy and cheeky, many with mangled feet or missing legs or feathers that make them look as though they’ve been barrelled down a tube tunnel in the halitosis wind of a train. Then there are the park pigeons. They’re enormous, healthy-looking things. All that fresh air and all those picnic crumbs are clearly what a pigeon needs to reach its full potential.
There’s a big population of the park pigeon variety in Gladstone Park, the park nearest to our North London digs. On my first walk to the park, I watched them flapping around for at least an hour near the duck pond. (There are far more pigeons than ducks around there, and the pigeons use the pond too, so it should be called the ‘pigeon pond’, in my opinion. Prejudice against pigeons runs deep in our kind, what can I say? All the more reason to give them an article of their own, I feel!) In the ranks of these pond pigeons there was one ginger one. He seemed a bit aloof, sitting on the fence when the others were pecking at the footpath or chasing after each other, filled with the joys of spring. I was enthralled by his gorgeous feathers and stayed to watch him until he decided to swan off to another gathering. (Or ‘pigeon off’? Yes. What’s so great about swans anyway?)
On my second visit to the park I was with my boyfriend, and when we reached the duck pond, I told him about the ginger pigeon I’d seen on my previous walk. Just as I was relating the fascinating tale, the ginger pigeon appeared and started strutting around.
I was incredibly pleased about his well-timed arrival, and I managed to take some good pictures of his gingery glory, dubbing him ‘George’ after one of the ginger Weasley twins in the Harry Potter books.
Ginger George is not the only unique pigeon in the group. On both of these walks, I saw a pretty, speckley pigeon and another one with black and white patches instead of the usual colour arrangements. You never know what you’re going to get!
They’re all massive and not very shy and I wish that one of them would read my mind and hop onto my shoulder like that old rock pigeon would. Preferably George (because how cool would that be?) but any old standard pigeon would be great, too. I wouldn’t want it to do that for everyone, just for me. Like a loyal companion. I would train it to deliver messages for me, in exchange for delicious treats. Like the owls, in Harry Potter. Unfortunately this is not Harry Potter’s world and I’ll have to settle for watching them, my dream of gaining their trust unfulfilled, my heart heavy and my eyes brimming with tears. Ok, not really.
Anyway. There’s no real end (or point) to this tale of interesting pigeon-spotting, only a suggestion that next time you find yourself facing a flapping crowd of pigeons, you don’t chase them away; rather sit back and watch them and identify the interesting characters in their ranks and give them a little bit of the respect they deserve! You might find yourself developing an affection for them as I have, and if you’re feeling affection, you’ll be less likely to experience annoyance when one of them tries to steal your chips.
Pigeons are everywhere. They’re adaptable, prolific survivors, kind of like humans. They soldier on, completely unaffected by us referring to them as ‘the rats of the sky’. And is that really an insult, anyway? I think I need to spend an evening in the underground and try to observe London’s rats so I can write a tribute to them too…
(A shortened version of this silly post was featured on the back page of the South African FH&L magazine, summer 2013.)