Lauren Brown + Anna Brailsford

Speed Dating

Monday, April 27th, 2009

We sit down in unison.
I speak first out of necessity.
“So, what is it that you do, Nigel?”
I look affable: smile a little, as my mother always said I should.
“I do birds.”
My mouth tautens (must not smile). I nod, repeatedly. Stop now, too much nodding.
“What type of birds?”
He answers with a little reluctance, “All sorts, I’m not fussy.”
I resist the urge for a full two seconds. I am already imagining him with Margaret Thatcher, bloomers akimbo, behind the number forty-eight bus shelter. Such a glorious scene should at least interrupt public transport.
Enough, back to bird man, he is talking at me.
“I remember as a boy having a passion for the order of Columbiformes.’
“The Order of Columbiformes?”
Clearly, he is more a fan of the South American tribal woman. Columbiforme was a nice chap, but abandoned his fifteen daughters in the Chilean Andes to seek a job at Sainsbury’s. He enjoys croquet and bingo. No wings.
“Pigeons,” he answers curtly.
I sense he is thoroughly annoyed by my bird ignorance.
I imagine Nigel smoking a cigarette and lying next to a giant pigeon. He bumped into her at the garden centre whilst perusing the pink geraniums. Their eyes met and she cooed a little. They went for a drink and talked incessantly. Four pints later, he could no longer resist Mandy’s charms.
“Pigeons were once highly-regarded, entirely domesticated creatures.”
“Indeed.”
I take a large sip of wine. He is taking great pleasure in my attentiveness.
“Now they are considered dirty feral creatures.”
I take interest in his anguish. Mandy has clearly encountered a great level of societal pigeon-related prejudice.
“Now, that is a crime.”
“I’m glad you think so.”
He sits back now, lets his shoulders relax a little, entirely at ease. Taking a larger sip of wine, I wonder what it is like being the only pigeon in school. Gym class must have been a nightmare. I imagine her leaving home early, with little or no education. After falling into multiple failed relationships, she meets Dwayne, the local alcoholic sparrow.
“Nigel, there must be something that can be done for the pigeons. They do not deserve this. We live in the Twenty-First Century.”
He looks most impressed.
“If you would agree to see me again, I could tell you the history of the pigeon.”
I pause for a few moments to think about his invitation. He interests me very little, but I am thoroughly engrossed in the topic of the pigeon.
“I forgot to ask, what is it that you do?”
“Primates and the occasional man.”