Is the collective term for pigeons a “flock,” or do they have something more obscure like crows and rooks and ravens?
Whatever the collective term, there were numerous pigeons sitting on the roof of a house. It was one of those local authority houses built in the 1950s; solidly-built with a good garden. It came from times when houses were built for people and not for profit. I suspected that had I gone around the house to the garden at the back, I would have found the loft that provided a home for the birds that were resting contentedly on the roof.
When I was young, there seemed to be two sorts of pigeons kept in lofts. There were the racing pigeons, bred for their stamina and speed, and the show pigeons, bred for their shape and plumage. At primary school, Mr Shield, who taught us art on a Wednesday afternoon and who had been a member of an RAF bomber crew in the Second World War, was a man who kept show pigeons. One week, he even brought some of them to school for us to draw, each in its own wicker carrier.
Once, when we were visiting a work colleague of my father, we were taken to visit the man’s loft. He talked to each bird as if it were human.
I remember a television play, perhaps as long ago as the 1970s or 1980s, because I remember preaching about it when visiting a church in Canada in 2001.
The play was set in the North of England, in an old heavy industrial area, and it was about a man who kept racing pigeons, something that was very popular activity in those industrial parts of England.
The man had worked hard all of his life, earning money, keeping his family, getting on with things. As he grew older he spent more and more time with his pigeons. When he finally reaches a crisis point his life he is challenged about the pigeons. He confesses that all through the years of his working life, it was in his pigeons that he found something that wasn’t just about work or about the house. In his pigeons, he had found a world outside of his ordinary daily existence. In the speed and the flight of his pigeons he had found a beauty he hadn’t found elsewhere.
Perhaps the pigeons on the roof bring a similar contentment to their owner.