Circles within circles

Do you ever feel that your life is a series of endlessly repeating circles-within-circles going nowhere?

I’ve just had a shave, washed what remains of my hair and had a bath. I’m clean, pink and feel great. I’ve also had the novelty of putting on a nice set of fresh clean clothes. That’s not an everyday occurrence on Westray where I’ve still to get a washing machine and drying-your-washing days are at a premium.

Then I hear the Puffin Whisperer calling that there’s a pigeon in the Hall. We’ve been in this position before. Last time I was here the birds had got in through a broken window and the Hall was a terrible mess. My bicycle was knee-deep in guano.

Back then I swept and I brushed and I polished until I had six rubble sacks full of plaster, old nests and bird droppings.

There’s also normally the gruesome remains of a dead animal. A dead starling here, a mummified blackbird there, and least explicable, a dead rabbit.

This time another window has broken and the birds have got in again. I check for signs of eggs and chicks – none, thankfully. Then I shoo the pigeons gently out of the door. I would have shooed them gently out of the window they came in through, but pigeons can’t tell the difference between glass and fresh air at normal flight speed. That can lead to a bent beak and what counts as concussion in the pigeon world. I’m not sure I’d be able to forgive myself for that.

It takes a while, and a long-handled broom is involved for some gentle direction, but Pigeons are successfully shooed.

I can never think of the word shoo without being transported back over 20 years. I’m in the park with my son Joseph aged two. He’s dressed in stripy dungarees and soft shoes. He sees a pigeon approaching our park bench picnic and shouts “Foot” at it. I realise he means to say “Shoe” and laugh gently at his association. A lady at the next bench thinks that he’s shouting “F*ck”, mutters darkly and moves off depressed about the state of the world. “Do you mean ‘shoe’?” I say “Foot”, he says with gusto as he mimes kicking out.

Later I open the door and there are two pigeons and a blackbird in the hall. Surely they are mocking me now? The blackbird soon flies out of the door with a loud alarm call ringing in my ears. At least blackbirds have some sense.

There are two hardy characters who have remained in the hall. I’ve boarded up the window now so their only way out is through the door. They are, however, incapable of finding the door. Given the large barn doors at the end of the hall I suspect these pigeons would be incapable of flying through a barn door if it was open. So much of a bird’s brain is its eyes and flight there’s no space left for a sense of smell or indeed any sense at all.

I need to get them out.

As I shoo them they fly into a hole in the ceiling and disappear. I need to go in the roof and get them out of the ceiling first before I can get them out of the hall. I get a set of steps, climb onto the work bench, shin up onto a platform, go through a door and realise I’ll need a torch. Back down I go, get a torch, then the steps, workbench, shins, door and then a ladder to the loft. I can see a chink of light and, as I shine my torch down it, I can see a pigeon looking at me. It flies off out into the hall. Yes, finally. I climb down the ladder, jump to the workbench, down the steps and two pigeons fly straight back into the hole in the ceiling.

I’m going to have to be quicker next time. As soon as they are out of the ceiling I need to get down quickly to stop them disappearing into the ceiling again.

I get a set of high ladders and place them against the 15 foot high wall. I get a board, four screws and a cordless drill with the right sort of drill bit. That should stop them getting back through the ceiling. I just need to get them out first or I’ll be incarcerating them. Then I set off again: Steps. Workbench. Shins. Platform. Torch. Ladder. Pigeons flying out. Down again. Just before I put a step on the first rung with my screws, board and drill, they fly back in again.

Circles within circles; going nowhere.

It’s hot in the loft. My clothes are filthy. I’m a sweaty mess. We still have pigeons. It’s time for me to go and have a bath again.

My life is a series of circles within circles, going nowhere. You’ve just got to enjoy the journey. I’ll work out a way of getting them out eventually.

Feral Pigeon - Villa Pamphilj - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

In the meantime I’ve got to spend a few hours picking broken window glass out of gravel.

Broken Glass - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

At the moment that’s seeming more appealing.

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