News and views from north Bristol's urban village

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Catch the Pigeon

There I was resting on my laurels and feeling unduly smug about the fact that in the course of a two-week stay-at-home-break-from-work (I believe the term is a staycation) I had managed to apply a layer of undercoat to not one but two interior window frames in my suburban semi, when a tap at the front door jolted me from my reverie.

"The pigeon's flown into your bedroom," announced a concerned neighbour.

The bird in question had arrived Mary Poppins-like on Sunday afternoon - unannounced and carried on the breeze - and had been loitering with intent for several days, eyeing up our meals, dropping feathers and other detritus on our patios and garden furniture and generally attempting to form a long-term relationship with the neighbouring households.

Despite numerous attempts to persuade the bird that it was not welcome, the squab had made up its mind to hang around between our fences and on low lying roofs in the hope of a good meal and a warm bed. The clue that this bird would be hard to drive away was in the two plastic rings fastened one around each leg. This was a domesticated rock pigeon - a racing pigeon who had lost its way home. Apparently, a group of about twenty such birds had been spotted over Severn Beach on Sunday afternoon.

Thus it was that, having wedged open one of the above-mentioned windows to allow the painted frame to dry, the feral beast had seized its opportunity and flown into bedroom number two.

Having received assurances from my neighbour that, in the unlikely event I were able to catch it, they would take the bird to "a man in Shirehampton" who knows about this sort of thing, I slipped out of my suburban casuals, donned my haz-mat suit, bullet-proof goggles and steel tapped boots and, after conducting a four-part risk assessment and health and safety evaluation, and having consulted with other stakeholders, I headed upstairs to engage the intruder.

My first thought on entering the room and observing the unwelcome guest defecating on the bed while simultaneously banging its body against our picture window was that here was yet another reason to not like Belgium. In its modern form, the "sport" of pigeon racing originated in Hercule Poirot's homeland and caught on over here when King Leopold II presented a collection of trained racing pigeons to our own royal family in the 1880's.

Rather fittingly, the same breeds of bird risked unpleasant deaths when Europe's least interesting country was overrun by the German army in 1914, homing pigeons regularly serving as military message-carriers in the days before Twitter. In a similar vein, the outcome of the Battle of Waterloo was conveyed to England via a pigeon in 1815 - presumably one whose homing instincts were considerably more developed than the hapless dove currently hurling itself into my bedroom window.

Xenophobic thoughts subdued, I boldly approached the intruder and, taking advantage of its trusting nature, smothered it in a large towel and held on to it despite its feigned attempts at escape. Safely placed in a cardboard box (yes, of course it had air holes) the lost dove was escorted to Shirehampton to be reunited with its fancier.

Which just left me to conduct a thorough decontamination of bedroom two, including the previously-painted window frame, to wonder why Duncan Ferguson is so enamoured of pigeon racing, and to comfort myself with a well-known brand of Belgian chocolate.


If you enjoyed this post, get free updates by email or RSS.


Anonymous said...

Want to know more about Cher Ami? CHeck out this website for kids. MEET ME AT THE CORNER, Virtual Field Trips for Kids. They have a new episode about Homing Pigeons.

Al Shaw said...

You're right!

What an extraordinary world the Internet is.

Mr Reilly. Sounds like a Belgian name.

Site Meter