Is it poetry? Is it serendipity? Is it chance? Is it the Great Architect of the Universe telling us that nothing occurs randomly, but that there is a great and changeless symmetry, a universal pattern; if only we could stand back far enough and see and understand. Or is it just poultry?
Take Wednesday July 14th. Several seemingly unconnected incidents came together in glorious concert to provide a talking point and a cause for smiles and genteel laughter for months to come. It was pivotal moment in history; in personal history. Many there were who used that day as a benchmark:
“It was the day after…”
“Where were you on the day that…?”
We had been experiencing the most dreadful invasion of feral pigeons. They were squatting on the roof in colonies and their constant crooning and moaning was driving us to distraction; the pigeon dropping were defacing the portico above the front entrance. then the tumultuous roar when some silly bird felt the need to fly, and the whole colony would ascend with a great flapping of noisy, creaky wings; the noisy clapping sound of a less than well bred audience at a concert hall; only to make a couple of circuits above the main drive before returning to their roosts, and resume their incessant soft coo-coo-cooing.
Tom Mould had come into the dining room on that particular morning during breakfast, muttering and grinding his teeth and complaining that it appeared that there were fewer giant carp in the Virginia Woolf Ornamental Lake than he thought there should have been. His eyes raked the assembled residents as if he expected some, or all of them, to be secreting a giant carp or two about her or his person.
Raj, the Gardener’s Lad, came in behind him and stood by his side; it was patently clear that he had important information to convey:
“It’s herons, Innit”, said Raj, “Dey’s eatin' da fish, Innit”. And then as an afterthought, he added, “Nowah Amin”.
Very few of the assembled Residents had even noticed this little interchange, but Maude, ever the observer, thought she heard Tom Mould mutter under his breath, “First it’s bleeding pigeons shitting on the roof and now it’s herons…Bastards!” Absent mindedly Tom scooped a handful of bread rolls from the table he was passing and left the dining room. Raj followed him, explaining as he went that he had seen a stork on the roof, eyeing the Virginia Woolf Ornamental Lake in a suspicious manner.
“Dey do dat,” he explained, darkly. “Herons is like that”. Raj expressed his anger that almost half of the chicken feed he was buying for his Black Orpington hens seemed to ending up in the crops of the marauding pigeons. They made their way together to Tom’s Hideaway where Betty would, no doubt, be waiting to offer him consolation.
Tom was usually a taciturn man, yet this morning there was a slight tremor in Tom’s voice.
“Bleedin’ herons!” he muttered, half to himself and half to Raj, “Those carp have been there years. Herons! Ha!… Bastards”
The postman had delivered several letters that morning. In one, Lillian had been informed by that “Her Majesty’s Government Pension Service had decided that due to greater expense incurred …blah blah blah… by Members of Parliament who had completely, honestly, and above board …blah blah blah… and within the law been making claims …blah blah blah… irrevocable deficit in the Exchequer …blah blah blah… her pension for the work she had put in at the Royal Courts of Justice…blah blah blah… Lord Chancellor’s Division…blah blah blah…no record of you ever having worked here. Your pension ceases forthwith blah blah. You have fourteen days to reply to this letter. If no response is received by that time the case will be closed, permanently …blah blah blah.”
Later that day, Tom and Raj drove to the nearby, quaint little market town of Streatham-in-the-Vale. Tom went directly to the local ironmonger's; above the door were emblazoned the words, TACK, IRONMONGERY & EVERYTHING FOR THE COUNTRY GENTLEMAN. Raj stayed in the van, talking to Betty in case she should fret due to missing Tom’s company.
Tom appeared after some time carrying a parcel. It was long. It was in a new cardboard box. Tom unwrapped the parcel as soon as he entered the van. It was a shotgun; a twelve bore shotgun; with ammunition.
Tom turned the shotgun over and over in his hands, he broke open the chamber for effect; then he looked Raj in the eye and spoke two words,
“Herons,” he said, “Bastards!”
Raj was fascinated. Betty looked calmly out of the rear window of the van… Nothing surprised Betty.
The postman had delivered several letters that morning. In another, Katriona had been informed by Fortnum and Mason that following a complaint from several staff and members of the public following a fracas at a wine tasting in their food hall on the previous Christmas Eve, Mrs Katriona Piesporter-Michelsberg was to have her Store Card withdrawn until after a full investigation into the incident.
It was about this time that the heron made an appearance. He had been feeding himself very adequately in a pond behind the Sports Pavilion at Crystal Palace, and thought he would rest his wings for a while before he made his way home to Surbiton where he lived. He perched on the roof of the Secondary Building and gazed around at the scene.
“Bucolic charm,” he thought to himself. The sun was shining; the pigeons scattered around him were doing what pigeons do best; making the noises for which pigeons are famed. Their call a continuous, bubbling moan.
If the heron had known the residents and staff of the building on which he was standing, he would have noted that the call of a feral pigeon is remarkably similar to the call made by Sharon when Raj is in the vicinity. But the heron was a stranger, never having been in the vicinity before.
He was looking around at the roofs of the buildings and had just noticed that there was quite a large expanse of water at the back of the grander house.
“That looks like and ornamental stretch of water,” he mused, “and ornamental stretches of water frequently contain carp”. He was about to investigate when there was some movement behind him. He turned to look. Two old women were standing on the roof very close to him, looking over the edge. He moved out of their way politely and considered whether he would investigate the stretch of water he had just noticed, or stay for a while and take in the warm sunshine. After all, he had just eaten and his investigations could take place at another time.
The old women weren’t bothering him; so why bother them.
Lillian, closely followed by Katriona, had climbed onto the roof. They were making their own completely unrelated protests concerning Lillian’s letter from the Government Pension Service and Katriona’s letter concerning her Store Card at Fortnum and Mason. They stood, half obscured by the late eighteenth century battlements and mullioned windows of the Tower over the entrance to the Secondary Building, They, the only thing marring the beauty of the Main Tower in the early afternoon sunshine; they, a minor blot on the roof above the Portico, on that lovely day; they, Lillian and Katriona, destroying the calm that hung like a whispered prayer over the Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst Memorial Billiard Rooms and Gymnasium.
There were hundreds, just like this one. Coo-coo-cooing all the time.
The above is an advertisement for Dulcie cards.
All names & addresses are purely fictional; any similarities between persons, living or dead are coincidental & the product of a deranged mind.
“Bleedin’ herons!” he muttered, half to himself and half to Raj, “Those carp have been there years.
Nothing surprised Betty.