Tuesday, July 15, 2008


My stepfather kept pigeons from 1967 onward. I'm sure he'd have loved to keep them before then but the house in which we lived at the time, in Seddon, had hardly enough room for us let alone a pigeon coop. But once we moved to St Albans he had all the space he could desire and so the pigeon coop was born. I recall helping him build it, little knowing the misery that damn coop held in store for me.

His interest in pigeons didn't come as much of a surprise; as the youngest of a large family he had ample example in his older brothers. At least three of them, as far as I can remember, kept pigeons and we'd always end up standing beside the cages when we visited, gravely discussing the merits of that 'blue' or this pink one.

And of course they raced the pigeons. Small sums wagered each week and form gravely argued over. The locals in Yarraville and Footscray even had a 'pigeon fanciers' club house; a strange brick building down by the Maribyrnong Wharves that looked, for all the world, like a council toilet block from the twenties. It may have been exactly that at one time. (I just checked on Google Earth and it seems to have gone; I will, of course, double check in 68 days when I'm there again). But heck no, I'm not counting down the days.

It fell to my lot to clean the cages out every fortnight or so. I think he had 25 or 30 pigeons in total at any one time and you wouldn't believe how much shit they could produce in a week! A nasty smelly job at the best of times but particularly bad in summer. The thing being that it dries out fairly quickly and forms hard lumps all over the inside of the cage. We're talking a cage plenty large enough to climb into and an inch depth of dried shit. The technique was to take a plasterers trowel and hack away at the lumps. Then scrape it all up into bags. After fifteen minutes the air would be thick with dust which of course one breathed in. It got into my hair, stuck to my face; I swear it got into my underpants! And the smell was indescribable.

What I wouldn't give to go back and have to do it all over again!

Our two youngest cats, not kittens anymore yet not fully grown, haven't entirely outgrown the catbox. I don't know what Tiny's eating but when he leaves his calling card the odour is quite pungent. Unfortunately, due to space limitations, the catbox is close to where I sit when watching movies. Not much farther from there to where Andrew sits playing World of Warcraft. Strangely enough my smokers nostrils, 37 years older than his, seem much more sensitive.

I took it upon myself, much to Sonyas amusement, to teach Andrew the finer points of cleaning up a catbox. It seems only fair that he should make *some* contribution to the household but he doesn't see it quite that way.

Now there's the wasteful approach and there's the thrifty approach. I use the thrifty one; that's the approach where one doesn't toss out the entire contents of the catbox every day. It's perfectly possible to reuse most of the cat litter at least once by judicious removal of the lumps.

And if one is taking that approach there's the hard way and the easy way. The hard way is to pick em out with the bare hand. But I've been doing this for years and I'm an observant bastard. Taking a leaf out of the anti-doggie poo brigades book I use plastic bags. We haven't yet got the point of supermarkets imposing a surcharge on the bags so there are always too many of em around the joint. Would you believe it's next to impossible to get the checkout person to NOT put a gallon of milk in it's own plastic bag???

So you take a plastic bag in each hand, one open to receive the nuggets, the other around the nugget removing hand. It takes less than a minute to snag em all out of the kitty litter and at the end of the process one has a nice tidy bag of cat crap ready to be disposed of and a relatively odour free catbox. Sprinkle some fresh litter on top and the cats will be milling around waiting for you to get out of the damn way so they can have a crap!

The other night, on our return from dining out, we stopped by the supermarket to pick up a fresh bag of litter. Then followed the argument with Andrew about just *why* he should be the one to do it. I've given up with the persuasion; I tell him straight out that it's because he's the youngest and I don't care that it's not fair. Calling him Morgan also works!

Arrived home he rushed in through the door and made straight for the computer, doubtless in hopes that we'd have forgotten, in the space of three minutes, all about such unpleasant subjects. No such hope.

Reminded of the task that lay ahead he grabbed a bag and started picking out the nuggets aforesaid. I couldn't help laughing. 'Ok, what are you going to do now?' I asked, as he realised he had only the one bag and that wrapped around the busy hand.

Poor bastard had the grace to look sheepish.

No comments: