Saturday, July 30, 2005


London is For the Birds

There's a review by Rachel Cusk in the Daily Telegraph of Sidney Day's memoir London Born: A Memoir of a Forgotten City. The book is a transcribed memoir, as Day himself is illiterate, and that in itself makes the book a rarity -- with some notable exceptions like the WPA Federal Writer's Project, such accounts rarely make it out of the academic realm.

Born in 1912, Sidney can neither read nor write: his photograph shows a roguish, resilient, dapper character whose voice ("Nearly everybody who went to the Brookfield [pub] on a Sunday took a bird in a little carrying cage… Every man put his bird up on the shelf that ran right the way along the bar. The bar was filled with birds fluttering and singing") speaks from the page with startling clarity.... Sidney grew up in a working class household on Balmore Street in Archway. "Our garden was just like all the other gardens in the street… it was filled with me dad's geraniums, and pens and sheds for our chickens, ducks and rabbits. We kept pigeons to race and had an aviary full of wild birds." Sidney and his friends would sometimes take fledgling birds from their nests or ducklings from the ponds on Hampstead Heath in order to bring them up at home. He would chew up food in his mouth and feed it to them with a matchstick.

I've never heard before of what sounds like an old tradition of bringing caged birds into a pub. Though if you are contemplating a modern urban aviary, I must say that I found a recent magazine profile of the Eglu weirdly appealing: maybe because it's a chicken coop that looks like an old iMac. Or maybe just because it's made by a company called.... Omlet.

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