Dashing home from
school, as was usual, intent on jumping into old jeans, jumper and black, toe-holed gym shoes, to get out and about with my friends, was a consistent pattern…or ritual. Every school day was the same… One particular sprint home though ended
just as I trotted and hopped through the back gate and into our
yard, when I spotted something sat in the corner near the outside
loo. A pigeon. At first I stood rigid and in complete
readiness for it to flap its wings and go – as would any bird you
might stumble across. It sat there, though, just popping it’s
little head from side to side. I’ve no idea what type of pigeon
this was of course, but the lack of a ring around its foot
suggested that it might be a wild Wood Pigeon? It continued
to just sit there, not oblivious to me but more as inquisitive
about me as I was it. I summoned the courage to
approach and maybe pick it up. After all it might be injured
and that’s why it hadn’t flown off straight away. Now and
then, it pecked at the floor, as though hinting that it might be a
little peckish? A hungry, injured pigeon… With all the
cunning and well thought out steps of a sneak-thief, I
approached… It didn’t move… Another couple of steps… It still didn’t move! Before long I was picking it up and cradling it like some precious antique vase! Thought I might at least have been pecked? Instead it just flicked its head here and there as if in complete agreement at being molley-coddled.
What should I do now? Cradling my new-found love, I nudged at the back door with my knee to attract attention! I knew deep down I’d be told to get rid or I’d probably get germs! That’s how it was when I was a kid if mum thought we’d had anything to do with vermin – or other beasts… Surprisingly though, she came out and coo-cooed with, “aawww, isn’t it lovely?”.
Pretty soon half of the street knew about my pigeon! I’d already let it go twice but it just flapped itself around and settled again in the yard. It wasn’t long before I had a little rabbit-hutch type cabinet and some pigeon feed from interested neighbours up and down the street! I was in my element and nothing else mattered – we were inseparably connected.
Time was getting on, excitement and interest had waned, though not my own… The time that evening had flown away as the pigeon should have, and had it been possible, I’d have camped out in that yard, alongside my new friend – I had the prettiest bird in the village! Sadly though, I was gently ushered into the house and asked to wash and dress for bed… Not sure my folks had seen me quite as happy as I was, aglow with fascination and infatuation! The result of which, as long as they knew I was in that yard, was an extended curfew – I just knew I was probably the only one of my friends that was up as late as I was!
Not sure I’d ever washed as fast before! Almost took the skin from my face with frantic towelling! I knew that if when I went to bed, after a short while, when all was quiet, I could look from the window directly down onto the yard, where I could sneak protective glimpses and satisfy myself that all was well. I recall hardly sleeping a wink for two reasons that night. First of all, I was wriggling with nervous excitement! Certainly not the last time I’d feel the butterflies and complete nervous weakness of someone smitten and besotted! Mixed with that excitement was a sense of doom! A pained thought or two would shoot across my mind, as if keeping the joy in check – self-preservation from the pain of loss? A not-quite-ready-to-mature sense of cautious thought, to even the balance of happiness and despair, the former, at that time, far outweighing the latter? Or perhaps the fact that dad had uttered nothing else but jibes about pigeon pie all night!
The terrifying thing was I knew he loved the likes of chicken and I did know that people ate pigeon…
Weeks passed and everyday I’d dash home and straight to my pigeon! Have a quick look to make sure she was okay (I was reliably informed of the gender by a man up the street). Then Straight into the house, school clothes off and into my scruffy duds! If sandwiches were on the menu for tea, often I’d be allowed to eat them out in the yard – if the weather was fine. Munching away through my grub, pausing now and then to tell her how my day had gone, I swear she knew every secret and every dream I had. Every day too, I’d pick her out of her little cree and gently launch her skyward – sometimes she’d simply and clumsily flap her way back to the ground, and after a couple of attempts and some petting, back inside she’d go; I would change her food daily and put some fresh straw in there… A ready supply of feed was donated from that same man up the street and the straw came from the fields that lay outside the gate of our yard. On those occasions that she actually flew, I’d watch her with a nervous excitement, with only the faint fear that she’d disappear. She never flew far and always came straight back home.
She had a name too, Sally. It just so happened that I quite fancied Sally from the band Middle of the Road, you might know her from the Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep song which seemed to be played fairly regularly throughout the early to mid-seventies. At such a young age I wasn’t to know or understand the allure of beautiful young women, however, girlfriends at that age still were a possibility – if not to share sweets with, dance the Christmas party dance with, or, go as far as an innocent little kiss… So, Sally became Sally.
One particular day, I arrived home from school to find my brother in the yard pulling a stick back and forth across the mesh on the front of the cree! I saw red and with all the vigour of a wronged and frantic madman, I ran straight into him, pushing him away, ordering him get off! Pushing and shoving followed, pulling hair, punching and kicking too! He was always much bigger than me and the impact I made on him was nowhere near as his on me! To make his final point, and backing away from me, he picked up a dart with a plastic flight – the ones you have as a child that go with the cheap, yellow and black dart boards that hung on the back of everyone’s coal-house door! Down on my knees, hair ruffled and almost torn out of my head in places, my eyes darkened by dirt that was carried down my cheeks by tears of frustration and care for Sally, I peered into the cree to see if she was alright? My brother’s aim was true and the dart hit me in the back of the head! It bounced and fell but not before it had drawn blood! My only concern was for Sally though… She was at the back of the cree and didn’t have that same sparkle as was usual… She was stood, almost motionless apart from a gentle tremble that told me she was disturbed. I left her there while I ran into the house to change, and also to squeal on my brother for what had just happened! I don’t recall exactly what happened to my brother, however, that house was far too busy still, with daily goings on, and sympathy was shortcoming.
Changed and still fuming, I went out to do the usual feeding and cleaning, though first taking Sally from the cree, petting her a little, stroking the back of her neck, reassuring her, like you would a scared child. I thought it best to let her go for her customary flap about, thinking that maybe she’d simply end up in the yard and not actually go anywhere – as was common some days. I let her go and up she went… This time she went further, quicker. Before I knew it, I was out of the gate and into the wheat field, watching her disappear…out of sight. Things couldn’t possibly get any worse. I knew she wasn’t coming back. I still feel a sense of loss, and those passing thoughts of caution, have never left me…
Easy come, not so easy go…