An Unexpected Visitor Blesses the New House

After months and months with our heads down, working hard, finishing the house, praying that the bank wouldn't come for us and wearing ourselves fairly to the bone - we had a whole week of liberty over half term smiling before us.

We dropped Finn at a friends for a sleep over and then proceeded to have a disagreement. The customary way to start any holiday that you sorely need, when expectations run high and spirits are gossamer thin.

As I grumpily stomped around the house picking up dirty socks and long forgotten apple cores, Nick called me out to the deck. 'Come quietly!', he stage whispered as I bought my disgruntled feet noisily to the front door.

Outside, with his head cocked on one side, was a grey racing pigeon - blinking with tiredness as he wandered up and down the wooden boards looking for food.

Delighted with this unexpected proximity to an almost wild bird, we held our breath and wondered what to do for the best. On his ankles were tags bearing numbers, but each time we came closer than a yard, the pigeon shot off with a squawk. We tried sidling up to him like Groucho Marx, setting a trap with some seed and plain rugby tackling him, to no avail. Each attempt at capture was met with another squawk, a neat side step and some rather distrustful eyeballing of us and then the seed we had put down.

Eventually I remembered an old trick that we used with our chickens and simply threw a light blanket over him. He became completely still, allowed me to pick him up and then cradle him so we could get his phone number and identity.

While Nick made the calls and did a little research, I sat quietly with the pigeon. His soft underbelly warm against my fingers - I could feel a little heart beating away in the cage of his chest. He became perfectly still and nestled into the warmth of my body, allowing his eyes to close a little before they jumped open again at the slightest movement or noise.

With the pigeon's parents alerted to his stray-ness. We unearthed an old catbox and popped the pigeon inside with a selection of our finest grains and seeds and water to drink. Straight away he did a large green poop and set about devouring the seed, whilst I heaved a sigh that I was poop-less and dry. We turned to each other with the moist eyes of new parents and smiled broadly, all our squabbles forgotten.

Later, as we settled down for the evening, I felt that the pigeon had spent quite enough time shut in the catbox - so we let him out for a recce. Obviously feeling a whole lot brighter, he stepped gingerly out of the box and had a wander -  flying up to the nearest windowsill if either of us spooked him and leaving a few bright green poops as he went. 'That bird sure eats his greens!', we laughed indulgently, as though using our front room as a toilet were the cutest thing in the world. Luckily all surfaces are wipeable - or we might have been slightly less amused.

As we got comfortable on the sofa, the pigeon found a perch on the sideboard - and there he spent the evening with his head thoughtfully on one side or the other, fluffing his feathers, blinking and oops, pooping on Nick's laptop in its neoprene case, innocently left on the sideboard. Ah well...

Then back in the fresh catbox he went, pecking happily at a new pot of seeds, while we went up to bed. 'That bird's eaten more than it's own body weight in seeds!', exclaimed Nick, and we secretly hoped that we wouldn't wake to find a Mr Creosote style explosion in the morning.

But when we awoke, there he was, regarding us suspiciously, head at a jaunty angle. The floor of the catbox and much of the surrounding floor was scattered with seed - it had obviously been quite a night in there.

We decided that the time had come to let him go, in the hope that with a full belly and a good nights sleep on him, he would find his way back home.

We opened the folding doors, then the catbox, and sat quietly to watch what happened, anticipation of the pigeon's imminent departure furrowing our brows.

A few steps and he was at the threshold, tasting the air. He perched there and preened a bit, shook his feathers. 'Making his last minute checks before takeoff!', laughed Nick with a catch in his voice.

Then he looked back briefly and just took off - his wings whistling as they beat the air and he soared into the sky. In barely a moment he was above the houses - in the next he was way beyond them, making a circle to orient himself and then heading for home.

We watched him until he was just a speck and then we closed the doors again, feeling rather... pigeon-less. I hope he got home safe. It was such a blessing to meet him.

x x x