I hate pigeons. Nothing would ever make me say, ‘That’s a nice pigeon. I’ll invite them round to my house.’ And this is despite the fact that my cousin, Billy, has been a champion of England pigeon flyer and trips to my aunty Maggie’s outside loo meant passing by the pigeon loft, both ways. ‘Don’t coo at me, pigeon. I don’t like you. You’re noisy. You’re smelly and you shit over everything. I just don’t want you near me. Any of you. Get it? OK. Get going, move it. I don’t care where you go but get going. Move it.Get out of here.
Once I spent weeks aiming fallen crab apples at a pigeon’s nest over the front door. When apples stopped working, I got out my son’s water blaster canon, double-barrelled, and let them have it, both barrels. It felt good. Anything which stopped me sleeping had to go. Move them on. Get rid. Get them out. According to my wife, the neighbours told her I put on quite a show. ‘Don’t mess with me, pigeon, or you’re dead.’ (I didn’t actually kill one).
Time passes and we come to a morning in April this year. I looked out the window of my upstairs living room. Were those twigs in the gutter below? No, they couldn’t be. How did they get there? Next appeared two pigeons, very attentive to one another’s needs. I opened the window and closed it again quickly. They flapped and loped and flew off. I hoped that would be enough.
They came back. I wondered about poking them with a mop but, strictly speaking, they were my landlord’s problem, not mine. Maybe, a quick text could get me a pigeon task force? While I was thinking about this, the next time I looked out the window, the female – I’m assuming it was the female – was sitting on the nest, ringed by little, white feathers. And white feathers mean angels. Oh, no, the pigeons were protected by angels and there wasn’t a single thing I could do about it. Strangely, somewhere in me felt good about this.
I followed the progress of the birds over the next couple of weeks. The hen fattened. I saw the male returning with twigs he picked up off the pavement, dropping them by the nest for the female to place. I started looking out for them, wondering how they were. You know how you never see a baby pigeon. Have you ever seen one? Do you even know its name? Precisely, because there’s no such thing or so I’ve always thought. Even the children are born rotten.
One day, I opened my curtains and the nest was empty, save for a small, white egg. Very pretty. Pure white, about the size of a dessert spoon. I know, how does a pigeon grow out of that? Easy, it pecks through the pointy end with its beak. The mum returned to sit on the nest and my curiosity was piqued. I started stealing glances, standing sideways behind the centre post of the window, so as not to disturb her. Had the chick hatched yet? Was there any sign?
One ordinary day in April, the bird sat on the nest. It shifted slightly and I saw. I saw a scrawny, olive chick with no feathers, big eyes and a long, black beak. Mum was keeping it warm and it disappeared underneath her. I felt happy. New life, even if it was a pigeon.
I never saw the chick again, although I looked every day. It may have been under the bird. Then, there was a second egg, left alone on the nest. The day after, it was gone. So were the birds. They’ve not come back to the nest, beautifully made of sticks, their home. Funny thing is, I miss them and I hope they’re ok, wherever they are. I hope the little chick is growing and I worry about what happened to that second egg. I miss ‘em.