Sunday, 14 October 2007

Perhaps they're smarter than they first appear...

I took the trouble to watch the pigeons at Clapham Junction*.

I pitched up at about half-nine on Friday morning. I had just missed my connecting train, and were it not for the pigeons, the platform would have been empty.

The two pigeons were having a rather pleasant time, it seemed - scratching around for bits of flaky pastry from croissants, sausage rolls, pain au chocolate... all standard commuting breakfast items. They had plenty to be getting on with, cleaning up after the rush-hour commuters. And to keep them healthy, the occasional kind-hearted commuter had thrown them an apple core. As people oozed out of the footbridge and underpass onto the platform, the pigeons contentedly waddled further towards the edges of the platform, eventually heading beyond the barriers which prevent the commuters from straying into any regions for which they have no need of entry, keeping the pigeons safe from the feet of the otherwise absorbed commuters.

At some point, the density of commuters on the platform got too much for the pigeons and they sought refuge from the heaving masses by perching above them on the roof joists. This was the point at which I became rather jealous of the pigeons. Not only do commuters bring them tasty morsels every morning and evening (and, I presume, throughout the day as well), they also present them with fairly static targets on which to crap from a great height.

Yes, I think life would be pretty good as a Clapham Junction Pigeon. They have a choice of nine platform roof structures to fly between if they need a change of scenery or bit of exercise, and with at least 120 trains an hour and associated commuters, they should get a different course served up twice a minute. All of this and the luxury of a roof over their heads. And, of course, they almost certainly indulge in a bit of schadenfreude. At 7am, they stare down at the bleary-eyed Mr Jones on his way to ten hours in a god-forsaken office, eyeing up the coffee and pastry he bought for a fiver, the discarded remnants of which they will lay claim to once the train has collected its cargo. At 6pm**, Mr Jones returns with a coffee and the sandwich he bought for lunch but didn't get time to eat to feed the pigeons once more and provide them with something to aim at when all that food gets too much for them to contain.

I, meanwhile, follow Mr Jones onto the train heading for the office and wonder whether, perhaps, maybe, it could be ventured to suggest that the pigeons are having a pretty good time at our not inconsiderable expense...?


*For those of you who have never had the pleasure, Clapham Junction is Britain's busiest railway station. Wikipedia tells me that there are about 125 trains an hour passing through the station at off-peak times, distributed between 16 platforms (numbered 2 to 17).

**Bearing in mind it takes Mr Jones half an hour to get to work from this point and the same time on the return journey.


Casdok said...

Clapham junction is Cs favorite place in the whole world!!

I will watch the pidgeons next time we are there!!

Innocent said...

Funny! A friend of mine is the station master-tickety-person at Bexhill station. Nearly
every sentence he utters starts or ends with 'fucking pigeons'. I suppose it depends on
your position in relation the pigeons whether you will find them acceptable or not.

Marla Fauchier Baltes said...

Where we live they brought in falcons to kill the pidgeons. To cut back on the population. It has worked. Poor lil' birds! Sounds like you had fun! I love bird watching.

Pixie said...

I got to see a woodpecker this morning outside my bedroom window.... was I lucky!!

But Why? said...

Please don't tell anyone this, but I suspect I may actually have been a train-spotter in a former life. Whilst the effort of fighting against the commuter current and trying to traverse the underpass to reach my (unpopular) platform is a daily strain, I do quite enjoy the evocativeness of it all. For a number of reasons, trains are the subject of powerful personal metaphors. Damn, I think I'm danger of becoming a trainspotter in this life, too... And I highly recommend twenty minutes of pigeon-watching at Clapham Junction if you're stuck for something to do on a Friday morning!

Welcome. I couldn't agree more - the level of acceptability of a pigeon is heavily dependent upon one's position. Should I be directly beneath said pigeon when it drops a payload, well, I would find that pigeon and its choice of behaviour totally unaccepable and unwarranted. On the other hand, if it takes it upon itself to tidy up the edible detritus which the heaving mass of humanity sees fit to sprinkle all over the place, well, I see little in that at which to take offence.

I am always courteous to station-master-tickety-persons, but should I ever pass through Bexhill, I shall be careful to be extra-pleasant. Just in case its your friend.

May I call you Marla? (I usually wait before abbreviating or contracting the names of visitors, it's just that I fear I may otherwise get RSI (repetitive strain injury) if I don't take this liberty...)

Welcome, Marla. I'm not sure I fancy the idea of a flock of falcons taking up residence at Clapham Junction. I suspect not only are their poos much bigger than those of pigeons, but I also have a hunch they may have a better aim. I think I'll stick with the pigeons.

On the bird-spot-score-scale, pigeons, sparrows and starlings get you a point. A woodpecker scores twenty points. Fifty if you can correctly identify the species. And a falcon scores a hundred (unless it was introduced as a pigeon control warden, when it nets only twenty). Magpies and blackbirds score two points. Ten for a goldfinch. Five for a jay.

I have a feeling you might win this game too, as well as being streets ahead in the ear-stakes...

DJ Kirkby said...

You've sold me on it...I find myself longing to be a pidgeon the next time around!

But Why? said...

I thought pretty much the same - it can't be a bad life, until the falcons show up, that is. I really would like to be capable of self-powered flight. It'd be superb.