Well, well. A third entry in this series in just two days. At this rate, I may need to re-title it.
One of my great passions in life is music. I can’t play, I can’t sing and I’m not a particularly astute listener. It may take years of listening to a favourite song before I register the lyrics: the overall aural experience is the one that grabs my attention. It took me years of going weak at the knees whenever Patty Griffin launched into the line, ‘Hey Tony, what’s so good about dying?’ before I even registered the point of the song – the essential fact that ‘Tony‘ couldn’t come to terms with his sexuality.
As most of the point of comedy songs is to listen to the lyrics, it’s probably just as well that the musical genre labelled ‘comedy and novelty songs’ is one that I avoid. But there are exceptions and Tom Lehrer is one such. As you might expect, the lyrics of ‘Poisoning Pigeons in the Park’ are macabre and read from the page are not, in themselves, particularly funny but combined with Lehrer’s manic delivery, the song never fails to amuse.
Me, at least.
Mind you, I make a point not to listen to it too often..
But what has this to do with the state of Britain today? Well, I would expect poisoning pigeons in a British park to be an offence and it almost certainly is unless you’ve been granted an expensive licence together with a list of rules, regulations, dos, don’ts, high-viz anti-toxin clothing and a 1-mile exclusion zone certificate. And feeding pigeons in the park and in other public spaces is often prohibited by local byelaws when the birds prove to be a nuisance. By extension, some
killjoys with nothing better to do local authorities probably ban you from feeding pigeons and other birds in your own garden.
But in God’s name, when did we start to legislate the dietary and nutritional needs of wild pigeons? At what point did a group of MPs facing wars on two fronts, economic meltdown, mass unemployment, an energy crisis, imminent collapse of the NHS and education systems say to each other, “You know, we should pass a law that prevents the over-feeding of pigeons’?
Perhaps some dozy, infatuated New Labour apparatchik ran out of grace and favour appointments and installed Gillian McKeith as pigeon tsar?
My favourite explanation – because they have form in this area – is that plod was probably making up the law as it went along and decided that over-feeding pigeons should be added to our list of ‘hate crimes’. Four – count them! – four plods visited the home of Janet McIntosh and her mother Monica and (don’t laugh) searched for evidence of how much they fed the pigeons. I’d have thought the picture in the article was a bit of a giveaway on this point..
Obviously not though as they then spent a total of 90 minutes questioning both the women: the good cop, bad cop, very bad Bond-villain cop, evil waterboarding cop routine seems to be pretty time-intensive if this is anything to go by. And if all that wasn’t enough, the women were arrested and put into a cell for 7 hours.
7 hours! 7 hours in a cell on suspicion of over-feeding pigeons in your own back garden. Even assuming that over-feeding pigeons is a crime, wouldn’t a quiet word with the two women have been a more proportionate response from a police
service force that regularly claims to be so over-stretched that it cannot be bothered to investigate real criminality?
Finally, before we leave the subject of our friends in the animal kingdom, I commend to you this piece of lunacy. Calling animals ‘pets’ is insulting say leading academics from Britain and America. Even referring to wildlife is insulting to animals according to these clever academics; apparently, we should describe them as free-living. The next time you’re confronted by a hungry lion or a grumpy bear intent on tearing you limb from limb, don’t whatever you do refer to it as wildlife: you’ll make it madder than hell and you’ll get six months in the slammer, to boot.
Incidentally, some of the comments to this article are priceless. Without permission, I reproduce my favourite here:
If we’re looking for savings in British academia, I think I have identified an opportunity.Owen Morgan