Making Sunday Dinner For Elvis

Making Sunday Dinner For Elvis

I started making Sunday dinners for Elvis in March. I feed him mashed potato, pulped banana or cold, cooked macaroni cut into tiny pieces. Elvis dines on these mushy meals, tottering with the weight of his plump Christmas pudding body, almost too big to fit on the narrow windowsill of my tiny top-floor flat.

Elvis is a wood pigeon with a deformed beak also known as a ‘cross beak’ or ‘scissor beak’. He might have been born with it or he could have damaged it by flying into a car or a building. Due to this condition, Elvis struggles to pick up small seeds, worms and berries, hence my soft Sunday dinner service.

Elvis is just one of the many feathered friends I’ve made since I started feeding the birds on my windowsill.

At the start of the pandemic, like many others, I obsessively listened to the rising death toll with grief, fear and a feeling of hopelessness. As the tide of horror grew, so did my friendly babbling, cooing, cawing, tweeting, trilling flock. I began to count them and name them: Black Betty and Brown Betty, the male and female blackbirds, Paloma and Picasso, the pale and exquisitely pair of pink-eyed collared doves, Roderick the robin, Duncan the dunnock, Thea the song thrush, Elvis scissor-beak and King Henri, his smooth lady wife. And each day as the death toll rose and I learned of some new tragedy in this poor bruised world, I learned something new and joyful about the birds. I learned that wood pigeons and collared doves mate for life. Mistle thrushes sing in a minor key. Blackbirds sing louder after rain. I taught myself to coo gently, studied the language of birds- that vast, fascinating vocabulary of feather, song, beak and wing.

I was alone for the first three months of lock-down and the birds sweetened my enforced solitude. They made me laugh. They made me look at the world differently. They gave focus and structure to those slack and edgeless early lock-down days. They made me want to get up at 6AM to listen to the rich textures of their dawn chorus as they carol something pure and sweet and light into this dark, fevered season.

I was delighted to have this broadcast on BBC radio 4’s ‘PM’.

~ by Gaia Holmes on October 1, 2020.

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