Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Achtung, Birdy!

A short epilogue to the last 'Letter from Claptonia' - the one about Flappy etc.

Today I went for my afternoon constitutional in the secret park near my house. I call it 'secret' because, so far, it remains free of the crowds of well-behaved children and screaming adults that seem to blight the majority of London's green spaces. This one is nice and quiet, with a predominantly orthodox Jewish clientele. Oh, and a gentleman who dresses like a lady - only not very convincingly. Relatively speaking, I must look like a right chav in my t-shirt and Primark jeans. I wouldn't want that important fashion/cultural balance to be tipped, so I shall call it 'Park X'.

Anyway. It was absolutely roasting in Park X this arvo. I sat down in the blazing sun, ready to get stuck into some more of my book (Kurt Vonnegut Jr's 'Welcome To The Monkey House') and my takeaway coffee from the 'Park X' cafe, when my peace was shattered by the "Cra! Cra! Cra!" of random birds. I looked at the pigeons, but they were quiet. I studied the crows, but they too were mute. Not a peep came out of the ducks. No squawks from the geese flying high overhead, either.

Then a blur of green feathers streaked past me. A bird, about a foot long, glided gracefully then flapped frantically towards the tree nearest to me. It landed, was lost for a second or two in its camouflaged state, then flapped its wings and was visible once more. What could it be? An escaped parrot? Or a green woodpecker?

I needed information so I called my mum on my mobile. We both agreed, from her bird reference book, that it must be a woodpecker. Odd that it didn't have a red head, though. Something didn't quite add up. So I elected to take more professional advice. And who better to consult, of course, than a bona fide indie pop star?

I txted Noble from British Sea Power. A fine guitarist and a rampant twitcher. Twas he who taught me about the 'lbj' (little brown job' that is the generic name for a small bird of undetermined species... the sort of creature you can expect to see a lot of on birdwatching jaunts. In seconds I had my answer back in my Nokia: "Parakeets. They are wild in London now. Totally tropical."

"Really?" I txted back, excitedly.

"Make a nice kebab".

I sought a second opinion from The Secretary, a sagely soul in Totnes, Devon. Here is a man who knows his high-flyers, renowned as an expert in ornithology, aviation history and the life and times of Rosa Luxembourg.

"Prob parakeets. Hundreds fuckers across Ldn. Shoot em."

It all fitted in perfectly - these were parakeets. And the more I looked, the more they seemed to fill the Claptonian skies. Further research informs me that there are something like 10,000 of these exotic birds now living in and around London. In the space of around an hour, I saw about six of them.

But what on earth are they doing here? How did they get from their home turf at the foot of the Himalayas to a random tree in Park X, Claptonia? And why on earth would they want to live here?

One fascinating theory is that Jimi Hendrix, star of this week's re-run of the Woodstock movie, released a breeding pair from his London home for a stoned giggle sometime in the late 60s. Apparently, parakeets can live quite happily for a good 30 years - so the birds I spied might well be the chicks of Jimi's original brood.

Which is nice.


  1. How do I become a follower of this?


  2. how come you get to phone an indie friend, and I just get Mr Ethyl and the Ladybird book of birds of prey?

  3. i saw a pair of parakeets resting in a tree in kew gardens last summer - they seemed surprisingly domesticated - either that or they were nailed down...