Wednesday, 24 December 2014

The 21st Century Entertainment. A Cautionary Christmas Tale

Great Uncle Dubious originally came to England from the Mediterranean in 1963. Where he lived they hunted, and hunted as though they sought to emulate the way the Americans hunted Martha

Dube though was different. While he ate well he always earned his crust and obtained his food in the conventional manner. He kept pigeons, and turkeys in December, and lived a simple life here, as one might have expected

Since retirement though something was wrong. He was restless and somehow wanted more from his bird keeping. He experimented with foods. He had tried all the traditional options - pigeon peas, bread, corn, millet, etc., but somehow those doves always stayed the same, so he started to experiment. It became an obsession. Years passed, and while certain ingredients made those birds glow and take on a sheen (varnish was good), nothing really worked but one day on the advice of 'big' Dave, a  diminutive five-foot champion breeder of racing pigeons, he obtained some hitherto widely unknown ingredients and started to feed his birds crumbs with an increasingly high content of them

Slowly, over time, he noted that the pigeons became rounder and larger, a few became extremely large, and he wondered. Soon Pinky, his best ever showing dove with many champion awards behind her, but now also retired, became so large that she was claimed to be the biggest ever seen in captivity, but Dube remained restless, something was still lacking

Eventually though, Stan next door, Gerry down the road and even Brian, who had no interest in pigeons at all, though liked his finches, were seeking Dube's recipe. So, to do them a favour as he didn't want to give his secret away ("Let the b*****s work it out for themselves", he said to Aunt Dube. "It'll break you, all this madness", she said, "D'u hear me? Break you I say") he made more magic crumbs and gave them to his friends. They too grew large pigeons and Brian had a little success too.

One night during a frightful electric storm that kept him awake and yet fired his imagination my Great Uncle had the brainwave to end them all. He would feed his magic crumbs to wild pigeons and improve their lot

Now we should not suggest Dube was the reckless sort as that would be misleading, strangely adventurous at this time of life maybe, and egged-on by his friends with his recipes certainly, but no he didn't blindly start feeding the wild pigeons without some research. It did not take him long to discover via his teenage nephew on Gaggle, the online bird forum (there is one?! Oops), that woodpigeons were not particularly well protected by law, indeed they were agricultural pests. They were also booming in numbers and a little experimentation and intervention with his local population could only help them become healthier, and bigger

It took a while but in the countryside near his house pigeons grew. Of course there were so many of them that he couldn't supply the feeders which ran dry by lunchtime each day!

Dube went into production. The wood shed was converted into a dry store and much banging and crashing occurred deep into the night, day after day. Brian came to help and soon Dube was producing his magic pigeon food by the hundredweight (can we still say that? Perhaps I mean 50kg or something)

Brian let it slip that he too had started keeping a few pigeons and that they has become even larger than Dubes. He felt it was probably that there were less of them and they could bully the goldfinches for the crumbs. Meanwhile, at the back in the dried-out and colourless gorse stems those goldfinches quietly became thrush-sized

Other pigeon fanciers wanted his food, he set up a company to produce enough crumbs to sell on the open market and racing pigeon enthusiasts found that their birds could now break those long-standing records without any risk in front of the drug testers

A young dutch avian palaeontologist, C. Kuyt-De Bono, declared this to be a disaster in the making ("I told you!", said Aunt Dube), but no one listened

Despite the hectic life my Uncle had acquired late in his three score years and ten he never stopped in his own quest and continued to feed the wild pigeons nearby from the feeders in his garden. The ground was bare where they had eaten everything that existed within 20 metres (metres, yes that's better) and their droppings nourished the surrounding wider area causing Dube to get a little nettle rash around the bottom, of the garden

In the first winter it was found that the birds didn't eat so much, and Dube, having produced so many magic crumbs to meet summer demand, was able to stop production and survive off his existing stock until the following March. A pattern started to develop and over a period of pigeon time he realised this would hold back his production year round, he became more money-orientated than before but now he had employees to support and Aunt Dube had become accustomed to a more comfortable life funded by these rather amusing rotund doves.

Brian meanwhile was perplexed. His dabbling with doves and progression with pigeons had produced an anomaly. A cross-bred bird that was vigorous in growth up to a certain middle size, that ate like mad, seemed to have a rapid metabolism and was as hungry in winter as summer. He mentioned this to Dube in passing. Love Doves he named them, as they were curiously heart-shaped due to their natural pigeon chest and appealed to those who sought solace in something consistently amenable to their attentions

One bright morning Mr & Mrs D were woken by shotgun fire. This was not unusual. They lived next to countryside and the adjoining farmer often allowed one or two hunting types to take a few birds for the pot in return for the occasional brace of pheasant or partridge being hung in his porch as a surprise on rising from their slumber. The sound of gunfire sounded somehow closer this time and more regular, in fact Dube would not have been surprised had he peered through the gap in the curtains to eye piercing sunlight to see two gun-toting bird blasters.

"Seven", he yelled, "SEVEN!?". "There are seven of them shooting our pigeons on our land!", he added. My Aunt was apoplectic, the doctor was summoned (who knocked at the door with a 'rat a tat tat' of course). The police were called and the gentlemen with the guns were encouraged to disperse. Dube used rather more urgent language and it sounded from a short distance as though ducks might've been involved

That Friday night in the Cock & Pullet, Dube and Brian contemplated the situation. Here they were with a whole burgeoning bundle of birdy information and it was so exciting. People in the local area were changing the face of pigeon size, they became bigger and bigger where they were fed the magic crumbs and those that remained wild in truest sense, further afield, stayed the same. Furthermore people were prepared to poach them

Brian had an idea. "Dube?", he enquired, "Why don't we buy the field next to your house?". "Why on earth would we want to do that Bri?", came the reply. Brian explained...the beer flowed...and eight weeks later they had it, their own field. Flyers were issued by post, email, web (and pigeon) and bookings were taken. The newly named 'P3' doves (Love Doves would never have cut it) were released into the field to add some wider interest and the pigeons Dube had fed next door in his garden were there too, in ever greater number, together with enlarged specimens of other species that benefitted from the Magic Crumb(tm) crumbs as a consequence

They got planning permission for a shop and sold their increasing range of bird food while the punters flocked (no, really) to shoot there, the bird meat didn't taste great compared to the pigeon they knew of old but they were much easier to hit due to their size so they appealed to both experienced and beginners of the shooting fraternity, and Dube joked that one day, if they carried-on like this, they wouldn't be able to fly at all! They had recreated the dodo!

Well, maybe they had. The prophecy just needed to be fulfilled

As the venture grew it became apparent that other entrepreneurial individuals some distance from Fat Dove Fields were setting-up their own centres supplying released birds fed on Magic Crumb, a few of them started shops and sold Dube and Bri's product as well but, not long after, rumours filtered in the community. The RSPFB (Royal Society for the Prevention of Fat Birds) were making noises, and they weren't cooing. They claimed that feeding wild birds suped-up (or souped-up? Some debate online - you decide) feed to change their physical state contravened applicable legislation but couldn't quote it. Nevertheless due to their huge grass roots following things started to became a little hairy, not to say feathery, for the dynamic dove duo. Public opinion started to move against them as their leader, none other than Joe himself, suggested at the very least perverting the natural course of bird evolution and introducing captive bred, not to mention hybrid, birds into the wild was at best morally reprehensible and at worst ill-eagle. He suggested Dube and possibly Brian would soon be up before the beak for winging-it so long without legal advice or proper licensing

Those words would surely come back to haunt them. Word was on the air waves that birds were flapping around the countryside nationwide in an injured state due to the voracity with which the shotgun merchants had taken to blasting these poor defenceless balls of fluff, they could not all be found and eaten. Foxes were seen to proliferate

The man and woman in the street now knew about this. Birds were so visual, and everyone loves a robin at Christmas, but suddenly those naturally round red-breasted thrushes were somewhat threadbare around the wing-pits due to their bulking-out. It had genuinely reached a stage at which no standard old-fashioned bird food could be purchased and even the feeders had to be enlarged and reinforced to accommodate the hefty avian invaders in any gardens where they were fed 

Dew Gooder, the local Parish Council Chair, summed it all up when he stated on the record in Fat Dove Fields very own Parish that (and I quote), "If they had been fish or something no one could see or cared about it wouldn't matter, but because they're birds it's just too much, it has to stop"

...and stop it did.

Merry Christmas All, no nightmares please! Just a bit of fun, I think.

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