The Big Issue : Edition 573
THEBIGISSUE.ORG.AU 19 OCT–1 NOV 2018 13 WELCOME TO SPRING! Or, as we call it at our house, a perfect storm of vermin. From a distance, if you smear vaseline on the lens, you’ll glimpse an arboreal inner- city paradise with frolicking chickens and an explosion of pink flowers from the beds next to the driveway. Ground level, however, is a fresh hell with tired dirt instead of soil, and various introduced, feral and invasive species making a bid for immortality. It’s a real-time game of Risk played out by what passes for flora and fauna in my rental backyard, none of which are fazed by my, and my boyfriend’s, increasingly desperate attempts at human intervention. We are defending on all fronts, and losing the war. “Babe, check out Harry [our cat], soaking up the sun. He’s loving it. Wait, why is the ground moving? Aargh, oh god, the ants. THE ANTS.” “Oh look! Is that a pair of ravens flying out of the chicken run? One of them’s carrying something big. What can it be? Oh god, it’s a rat, isn’t it? They’re hunting rats in the chicken run. Raaats.” “The pigface looks great, doesn’t it? Finally something hardy that’s covered everything up. It’s a riot of pink flowers! Wait, what’s that on the stems? They’re smothered in scale! Like bright-green pustules oozing sticky stuff! Everywhere. Ugh... Oh you know who likes that? Ants. Oh. Oh god. There’s swarms of them. AAAANTS.” And take the pigeons. Please, I’m begging you, take the pigeons. Not that it would help, because their pointy little heads contain sophisticated machinery that geo- coordinates with such precision that NASA would weep with envy. You could trap them, drive them to Alice Springs before releasing them, and they would still find their way back to shit on my porch. Shitting, apparently, is their vocation. It’s what they do. If a pigeon were asked at a job interview to identify its strengths and weaknesses, it would be all like: “Thanks for the question, Natalie. My strength is » Fiona Scott-Norman (@FScottNorman) is a writer and comedian who’s always within cooee of a pigeon. FIONA Stop the Pigeon “They are actually a stunning real estate opportunity for a young pigeon couple looking for somewhere to raise their kids.” definitely shitting. And my weakness? That’s a toughie, but probably my inability to stop shitting, so it’s kind’ve a strength, you know?” Our porch is large, and features three tall, solid, brick-and-render pillars that hold up the roof. At the top of each pillar, cunningly out of reach, are six pigeon apartments. Oh, I’m sure they were intended to be architectural detailing, back in the 1920s, but they are actually a stunning real estate opportunity for a young pigeon couple looking for somewhere to raise their kids. And when several couples of healthy young feral pigeons roost on your porch, it is, literally, a shit storm. You scrub it off. They shit. You scrub it off. They shit. Who has time for this? The porch is perpetually, festeringly, covered in crap. So is the pigface. We’ve fought for years. Filling the spaces with upturned plant pots, shooing them away. The pigeons work around. They perch on top, to the side, in between. They create giant piles of faeces and perch on those. They are implacable and unbeatable and perennial. Pigeons don’t just breed in spring, they breed when there’s enough food. We have chickens; there is always enough food. Some days I’m awake to the irony of cosseting one breed of bird and trying, actively, to dissuade another. “Who,” I ruminate, “am I to decide a pigeon’s life has less value than a chicken’s?” Other days I’m standing at the base of a pillar, poking a nest with a long pole, screaming “Why won’t you just LEAVE?” They won’t, of course. They can’t. My porch is their ancestral home. Welcome to spring. The emblem of my house is a pigface bloom encrusted with pigeon shit, crawling with ants that harvest the honeydew sap from the scale blight. Overhead a raven caws, a rat clutched between its claws.