Although I was born and raised in the US, I have lived in the UK for the past 20 – 25 years or so. Over the years, I have welcomed a number of family members for visits and lead a number of expeditions into London. This particular day, my mother and I went along South Bank, to the Tate Modern, across the Millennium Bridge to St Paul’s. After a beatific tour of St Paul’s, we were on the steps outside. It had been a long day but, as it was Rush Hour, I suggested we go somewhere to eat and pointed to a number of restaurants within a short walking distance but Mom, clumsy at the best of times, missed a step and fell forwards down the steps, landing on her hands, knees and chin. Mom fell in slow motion like a tree and I was too late, too slow, too careful to get underneath her! When she struggled to move upright, a kind foreigner rushed to the rescue and wrestled her to her feet. I assured him that I would look after her and I went into triage mode:
OK. First things first: Nothing was broken. Unsurprisingly she was in shock and shaking. I wanted her to decide what she wanted to do next. She seemed hesitant with the idea of staying in London and wanted to go back home. Hmmmm. It’s Rush Hour. For those of us with claustrophobia, the prospect of travelling during the Rush Hour in London leaves me struggling to breathe! However, Mom gets what Mom wants. I guided her gently to the Underground and we stuffed ourselves onto a Tube. I was surprised when someone offered his seat to Mom. I made sure to stand near her so that she felt secure, but after a few minutes, we were chatting with the group: they had just left an Indian wedding and the ladies had gorgeous henna tattoos on their hands! They kindly explained what and how they made the markings and how long they would last. By the time we got to our stop, I was relieved that Mom didn’t seem so unravelled.
Waterloo is one of the busiest train stations in the country. So you can only imagine the heaving mass of humanity that awaited us. Once again, we managed to force ourselves onto a train and even though it was standing room only, a kind soul gave up his seat for Mom. I then entertained a sweating mass of people with my bird stories – initially to bring Mom out of her shock. These are the stories I told her:
I was in the first of my first husband’s houses. I had been in the UK for about a year or so – a long time ago! I had spent the morning doing DIY. The weather was glorious – sun was streaming in. The windows were open. The clean clothes were on the line. I nipped upstairs to have a quick shower and then maybe a sandwich for lunch? Picture it: I’m in the bathroom, in the shower. I’m naked and defenceless when I hear:
The sound went across the bathroom and into the bedroom. I remind you that I was defenceless! I hunched down and peeked around the shower curtain but couldn’t see anything… Did I just imagine that? I have terrible eyesight without the glasses/contacts so my not seeing anything doesn’t necessarily mean anything. I finished my shower, grabbed a towel and that’s when I saw the red-eyed proud pigeon. Yikes! How did that get into the house? Is this the sort of thing that happens in England? I decided to leave it for about 10 minutes to see if, like a wasp, it would just find its own way out.
Which didn’t work. OK. Plan B: this must happen reasonably often enough that I can ask someone? I rang my husband who laughed at me. When he realised that I wasn’t joking, he said to leave it alone for 10 minutes and see if it flies out the window by itself… So this isn’t the sort of thing that just happens in England? No. OK.
I nip back upstairs to the bird, who was strutting around and acting rather proud of himself. He waddled over to me and seemed to demand a treat. That’s when I see a ring around his ankle. He’s a homing pigeon! So now all I have to do is figure out where he’s come from. There are some huts in the back garden of one of the neighbours – maybe they might be missing one?
From the bathroom window I counted how many houses away the pigeons were and then set off. When I got there I had to explain: Hello. I’m your local Mad American and I have a pigeon in my house. Is it yours? There was a bird missing! The pigeon expert clapped and shooed the pigeon out and slammed the window closed, apologised profusely and left as fast as a tornado. I presume she needed to track down where else the bloody bird went before she got the thing to go back home. The worst thing about the fowl visit (see what I did there?) was the poop.
Speaking of poop! I told the pigeon story to some friends while, unbeknownst to me, I was sitting in a huge pile of bird poop. Thanks to the first husband for not pointing that out to me!
You know how bad things come in threes? Well, I was again telling the bird poop story in a next-door neighbour’s garden when I felt a splot on my head. You guessed it. I had been dive-bombed by another bird. Even though I knew what it was, I stayed in the garden and proceeded to get thoroughly inebriated. I found out later that English people say that it’s good luck when a bird poops on your head. I say that anyone who believes that has never needed to wash bird poop out of their hair!
While my day with Mom didn’t end as planned, she still loved that trip!