Why I write about Pigeons?
Pigeons. It’s fair to say they’re not many people’s favourite animal. The charges against them are numerous; pests, disease spreaders and statue defecators. So why base some of your most important characters around two of them?
To answer that question I have to take you on a journey back through time…
In October 1995, days from my 19th birthday I was travelling by bus from Exeter to Swansea (in order to celebrate my birthday by completing the Mumble’s Mile pub crawl which, at the time, involved a pint at more than 16 different establishments – I failed by the way!) The bus journey involved a transfer at Bristol where I was required to change buses. There was, as there often is with public transport in the UK, a delay of about an hour. I did the only thing you could do with an hour to spare in the mid nineties and a decade or more before smart phones were invented, I sat and observed.
People watching is a great hobby. I highly recommend it. On this occasion the available human subjects were not offering much intrigue so I cast my eyes to the large Victorian domed ceiling, that stretched above me in a state of disrepair. There I saw them. A collection of pigeons, seemingly engaged in their own version of people watching. Occasionally they’d swoop down to the floor to gather up edible morsels, more often than not items that turned out to be a cigarette butt or discarded piece of chewing gum.
I was captivated by them. What did they do all day? Were they happy? What did they think about? What if they were more than just pigeons? What if someone came back in the afterlife as one? What would they do then? It was a crazy surreal thought which strangely I couldn’t get out of my mind. I boarded my next bus to take me to the glory of completing a marathon drinking session and found that pigeons could not be dislodged from my mind.
The image stayed there festering. The image grew. It produced more questions that weaved their way into a larger story. It gestated for more than a decade until more than 12 years later, on a similar journey on public transport from London to Edinburgh, I bought a pad and I wrote the first word. What was it I hear you say? Well it was a made up word: Pigeoncarnation. This was ‘The Limpet Syndrome’s’ working title, that makes a brief appearance in the book as I loved the amalgamation of pigeon and reincarnation.
The next time you have time waiting for something or someone, put away your mobile phone and look around you. If you see a pigeon, larger than perhaps you expected, just take a moment to think just what they might be scheming.