Image copyright Thornback and Peel
I was just innocently walking along through the city lunchtime pavement traffic. Unable to remember when my suspicions were first aroused about these creatures. But from that day on I would be able to recall the moment that it dawned on me that pigeons and I could not be friends.
It was a windy day, the kind that makes it difficult to breathe when you’re facing it head on whilst pulling a face which combines the squinting of eyes and the pursing of lips. I was on my way back to the comfort of somewhere warmer and quieter. I was running late and striding across the slabs with purpose. From the corner of my right eye I saw The Pigeon take flight from a first floor window ledge and make its way off the building. Except in that split second following its flight, it was caught by the wind. A gust so strong that it pushed The Pigeon off course. The Pigeon flapped and the wind pushed it in the opposite direction to where it wanted to go. The Pigeon swooped, probably trying to find a better path. And as The Pigeon swooped, it went so low that it hit me. With horror I looked down unable to believe my eyes. There, on the front of my best coat, for that split second, was The Pigeon. I looked it straight in the eye. The Pigeon looked back up at me. It was repulsive. Even now the memory of The Pigeon eye turns my stomach. My mind rushed. This is not the sort of thing that happens, is it? A city pigeon, and all the dirt and diseases that goes with it, landing on my best coat, in full view of other people on their lunch break? And of all the other people walking by, did anyone else witness what was happening? My coat!
Then again, imagine if the wind had been different and The Pigeon had blown into my face. My face! It does not bear thinking about. But I still do think about it with perverse frequency.
And in the next moment The Pigeon had flown away. I looked up and saw the faces of the people walking towards me. I spotted a couple of people in the crowd ahead of me who definitely just saw what had happened. Their expressions no doubt mirrored my own. I didn’t just imagine it.
Since that day, I have become more aware of pigeons in my day to day life and more determined to avoid future interactions with them. I suppose that is inevitable. I haven’t been able to avoid them though. There have been other incidents. It was when one narrowly missed my car windscreen the other day that I started to think about writing this post.
For some time I have wondered about how pigeons die apart from in road accidents. Well, not just pigeons but all birds. It’s not because I wish them ill (although when it comes to pigeons, I am afraid that I sometimes do) but because it seems like there are millions of common birds flying around and odd that I’ve never seen one die. Surely if this was something people did see, it would make its way into conversations that I would have heard. Occasionally I’ll see a dead bird on the road or pavement (sometimes it’s a pigeon!) and this acts as proof to me that they do die rather than live forever. So I have discounted the possibility that they are invincible. I look at the ones on the road and pavement and can’t help myself wondering if that one fell out of the sky and also if anyone saw it. This is especially intriguing if it is near my house. Or perhaps they were just flying low and were hit by a car. But has anyone ever, out there, in the history of the world, seen a pigeon just drop out of the sky? We are a populated country. Surely sometimes their little birdy heart stops beating? Do none of them get cancer or die of old age? What about all these diseases that pigeons supposedly carry around, are none of those killers? The odds are that not all of them die peacefully in their sleep, surely? It just doesn’t seem right or rational.
Some of them, a vast majority of them, must just fall out of the sky when their time comes.
I also presume that if there were to be a more disturbingly bizarre incident than having The Pigeon land on your best coat and look you straight in the eye, haunting you forever more, then having a dead one hit you over the head would be it.
Answers on a postcard please.
PS. Pigeon print items are available from Thornback and Peel. I won’t be buying any of it.