Metro 59

Richard Herring: A brave birdÂ’s McFlurry for freedom was a symbol of hope for us all

Friday 12 Apr 2013

Sometimes, something tiny but unusual happens that lifts us out of our mundane lives. I had arrived at Waterloo station too early for my train, so was sitting in McDonaldÂ’s with a cup of coffee (I may have bought some sneaky fries as well). Another wasted half an hour of existence trapped in the purgatory of the commuter.

Or so I thought.

Suddenly, I became aware of a commotion behind me. I turned to see a bamboozled and panicked pigeon flying around the restaurant. It had clearly found its way in from the station and yet still it seemed impossibly surreal.

We were indoors. Birds belong outdoors. Our worlds had been unexpectedly turned upside down.

The other patrons of this fine restaurant gasped and laughed with incredulity. Businessmen, tourists, pensioners and itinerant comedians all united in joy and amazement.

There was something strangely fascinating about this juxtaposition of bird and burger bar. Even though the sky rat was a dirty grey, it still brightened the room, our humdrum lives suddenly filled with unexpected excitement.

In this previously dreary and unexceptional place, this flurry of feather and fluster somehow symbolised hope.

Two hapless employees of the global conglomerate, like Dastardly and Muttley, were doing their best to catch that pigeon. They wanted to shoo it out to the relative outdoors of the station concourse.

But the bird, perhaps fearful that it would be plucked and served up in a burger (wrongly fearful of course, McDonaldÂ’s only use the finest ingredients, though it might have been in danger if this was my local fried chicken emporium or a supermarket lasagne factory), was trying to elude its benefactors, causing them to trip and tumble into each other, much like their cartoon predecessors.

It was life-affirming and genuinely funny.

The birdÂ’s continued freedom was giving the rest of us untold pleasure. Because, as well as symbolising hope, it also represented hopelessness, an irresistible combination to the patrons of this fine establishment.

We were all thinking the same things: ‘Like the bird, we are supposedly free and yet are all imprisoned in our daily routine.’

‘How I wish I could fly and soar away from the grasping hands of my job and responsibilities.’

‘I hope it doesn’t poo in my food… Not that it would make much difference.’

The bird swooped low, almost brushing my left ear, then soared to the roof before coasting majestically into a high internal window above the staircase. Like a cartoon character, it slid down the pane – you could almost see the stars spinning around its head – disappearing into some drab foliage in a window box.

Now we were united in sympathy: ‘How tragic. The bird’s literal flight is over. Our hopes, like its bird brains are dashed.’

‘I feel a little queasy… and for once it’s not because of the food.’

But then, to our further amazement, the pigeonÂ’s head popped above the foliage, a little battered, comically confused, but basically unharmed. The diners cheered, the piped music seemed to swell triumphantly, people of different races and creeds embraced and kissed one another, a public holiday was declared.

Our hero was still alive, if not in the mood to fly anywhere for a while. Best of all, he had fallen out of reach of his pursuers. The rebellion continued.

At which point, I had to leave to get my train, so I donÂ’t know what became of our hero. LetÂ’s say that the bird remained free and undefeated and that heÂ’s still living in the Waterloo McDonaldÂ’s and has by now possibly even progressed to being the manager.