I’ve had this hobby for a while, being a pigeon. It started when Marjorie suggested I stay on at work past retirement age and keep her in the manner to which she had become accustomed. I’ll be honest, to that point I hadn’t given much thought to my future. I mean, I might have taken up fishing, got an allotment and pottered a bit in the shed, you know. I assumed I’d retire, at least, but do something to keep myself out from under Marjorie’s feet. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy my job, either, but policing’s a young man’s game when all’s said and done. You have to know when to call it quits and avoid becoming a laughing stock. So anyway I didn’t give her an answer then and there; said I’d think about it.
I’d seen a documentary on Channel Four about a man who became a squirrel. Well, I say became a squirrel. It was a pretty poor effort if you ask me. His tail wasn’t the thing at all and he had a trick knee so leaping from tree to tree was right out. He was some sort of Taoist philosopher type; got up to all that tantric nonsense in this cherry blossom tree in his garden and talked about becoming one with the essence of squirrel. Can’t say I thought much of it, at the time, as a programme. I remember Marjorie said it’s amazing what some people get up to, and I responded with it’s amazing what some buggers will make TV programmes about. So then she said it’s amazing what some daft sods will sit and watch, meaning me although she’d sat there too, with a magazine on her lap like she did, but not turning the page once. I wasn’t stupid enough to shoot back with that one, though. It’d have been tantamount to all-out war.
It’s one of those things that sits there in the back of your mind, you know; the squirrel thing. Part of it might have been the stuff he got up to in trees, but the chap seemed happy enough.
Anyway, so Marjorie filled in the forms for me to stay on at work without telling me. Then she booked us on a holiday to Fuengirola, all inclusive. I’d as soon stay at home because the oil they put in food over there doesn’t agree with me and I do suffer from the heat. But anyway, we went, and I sat in the shade and read Clive Cussler books while she sat in the sun and basted herself while telling the couple on the next sunbed all about my inadequacies as a husband. I’m used to that, but then she took up with some surfer-types and disappeared for a day. I was more worried for her; I could tell they were only taking the Michael toting this wrinkled old bat around, but she only saw what she wanted to see. Anyway words were exchanged when she resurfaced, and that was it.
As the plane touched down at Gatwick I was looking out of the window to avoid the gaze of my good lady wife who was, not to put to fine a point on it, glaring at me because I had drunk three whisky-and-sodas at the airport, another on the plane, and told the stewardess that if I was twenty years younger... and as we taxied to the gate, there was a pigeon sat there staring at us with its little beady eye and its maimed foot. They had these bird-scarer things there, and every time it went off, the pigeon would flap a bit, rise in the air about a foot and flop back down. I felt a bit of a connection, somehow.
So when I got home, I started to become a pigeon whenever I could. I practised flapping around the garden and ate only seeds, berries, bits of bread and things I found lying on the floor. “For God’s sake,” Marjorie hissed on one of the rare occasions she spoke to me at all, “At least be something a bit less verminous; a budgerigar or cockatoo or something.”
Well, it worked, in one way. I got invalided out of the Force on grounds of mental health, so I didn’t have to carry on working. And Marjorie threw me out, which was inevitable after I pecked one of her women’s society ladies and got guano all over the living room rug (seeds and berries are terribly releasing, as a diet – I wholeheartedly recommend them, a hundred times better than those yoghurts Marjorie takes to ‘improve her natural digestive transit’).
I’m fully integrated now with a little flock in the park. We do well in the way of bread, what with the ducks having more than they can eat. I’ve met a lovely woman, Carole. She’s a pigeon too, and you should see the aerial sex combinations we can get up to! Well, maybe you shouldn’t see. It’s the sort of thing that would have had Marjorie writing a letter to her MP. Certainly the mothers in the children’s play park were unimpressed although the kiddies seemed interested. Better than a nature documentary, I’d say.
Marjorie still comes to visit the park from time to time. She feeds the ducks and sometimes she’ll chuck a bit of bread my way. Carole talks about fighting her for me – pigeons are quite direct in that way. But there’s no need, really.