Trafalgar Square, London; December 1998
This is Trafalgar Square in London in 1998, with the Canadian High Commission in the background. My mother was living in Cambridge at the time and I spent Christmas with her, before heading off to do volunteer work in Guyana. We made a trip down to London to go to the ballet (The Nutcracker at the English Ballet) and visit galleries and visit family.
I had forgotten about this entirely until I unearthed the photos in a storage box in Sydney. The reason it is so striking is the pigeons. I never saw Trafalgar Square like this when I lived in London from 2004 to 2009 – the former Mayor Ken Livingstone declared war on the city’s pigeons in 2001. Amid other anti-pigeon measures, he banned feeding pigeons at Trafalgar Square.
At the time back in 1998 I found it all quite charming – not the birds themselves so much but the fact that there was a whole economy revolving around feeding them. I think I was remembering the little old bird woman on the steps of St Paul’s from the song “Feed the Birds” in Mary Poppins.
With the hindsight of having lived in London for five years, I now think that was a real tourist perspective. There is no doubt that Trafalgar Square is much nicer and more usable for humans without being so overrun by pigeons, which are, let’s face it, not the cleanest, prettiest of creatures. There are still birds around, just no longer a plague of them.
I don’t feel any need to feed the pigeons like in Mary Poppins…
… but nor do I feel inclined to poison them, as in the songs of American humourist Tom Lehrer.
This is my contribution to Photo Friday, a weekly blogging event run by Debbie of Delicious Baby. Please see all the other submissions this week.
What do you think of pigeons? Is London better since Livingstone introduced the anti-pigeon measures? Can you think of any other places that have undergone a dramatic change like this? Please leave a comment!