Friday, August 31, 2007

Town Birds.

A good day today - no rejection emails or letters from anyone (just recently I have been sending off ridiculous half-baked ideas in all directions just for my own amusement) and it didn't rain - well not much. I met some friends for lunch in the middle of town and on the way took some pictures of the canal. The bridge is called Cow Lane Bridge because it was the bridge the cows were driven over to the market nearby at Gorse Stacks (now a car park).

How I love these names. Each one has a history describing human activities that went on and on for centuries until they stopped just a few decades ago.

But the canal is still here - a remnant of the nineteenth century - and the town wall that circles the city - some of it Roman, some just an indication in 1970s concrete - but still it encompasses the city with gates and gaps. There is some of it here in this picture - the red wall to the left by the canal.

But it was something on the canal I came to see. At the moment I am studying birds of the city. With memories of a Hitchcock film I am watching them move and watching where they go. There are some on this mud-filled canal - churned up by all this recent rain -

mallards - the iridescent drake with his entourage of wives - as contented and as complacent as a Mormon chief

and pigeons. As you see there is a city policy on pigeon-feeding. There is a designated area in front of the city wall - pigeons will be fed here and nowhere else by order of the council.

But generally the city-provided roosting place is ignored and like unruly adolescents the pigeons go pretty much where they please.

The white and the brown. The ringed and the unringed.

I have noticed they have favoured roofs and spaces. Maybe they are attracted by grain scattered by some eccentric (with romantic associations with the bird-feeder in Mary Poppins)

or the warmth of uninsulated tiles - or just the easy-pickings of fast-food. As Dilys, one of my friends pointed out, pigeons are beautiful when you look at them closely: the dark amber coloured eyes, the unshowy green iridescence of those neck feathers with the faint blush beneath, the proud curve of a breast, the faint suggestion of a tuft, the neat finch-like beak and the dove-grey feathers. Even the feet- surely their least attractive feature - have a fascination. Each toe is perfectly appointed with a black shiny nail and the scaly pinkness a pleasing contrast to the paleness of the feathers.

Once, when I went to visit my grandmother, she told me she'd show me a secret if I promised to be very quiet. She unlocked the door of her big green-painted corrugated iron shed and we crept in. The place was gloomy with wrapping paper stuck over the windows and smelt of damp coal. In a gap between two old chairs she had assembled a nest from old clothes. When we came close something stirred and as my eyes adjusted to the twilight I could see it was a pigeon looking at us just as seriously as we were looking at it. I remember little else about the bird but I remember clearly my grandmother's face as she leant closer. She was a countrywoman - used to strangling chickens and salting slugs - but for some reason she had taken to this pigeon. 'Ah, cariad,' she'd said softly while we'd peered at the mangy specimen, and her face had softened as if she'd been looking at a favourite child. She'd taken care of that bird most carefully until it had recovered enough to fly away.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hard sometimes mean care, also. A lovely story, Clare.

Sat Sept 01, 01:38:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"means" I meant to say...

Sat Sept 01, 01:39:00 am  

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