Boxing Day highlights

A misty view of London's skyline
A misty view of London’s skyline

We stayed at home in the warm over the Christmas weekend and very nice and comfortable it was too. On Boxing Day, though, we thought it was time to venture out.

Our usual breakfast places were closed for the the Christmas break but the Station Cafe down at King’s Cross was open so we had our brunch there.

We then took a bus down to Tottenham Court Road because Tigger wanted to go to Muji to pick up a couple of items. This was where the first highlight of the day took place. As we were leaving the shop, we noticed some pigeons milling about on the doormat. Someone must have dropped some seeds or crumbs and the pigeons were pecking away happily.

Pied Bull Yard Clock Chased by the bull
Chased by the bull: Pied Bull Yard clock, Gilbert Street
Unfortunately, not working, as you can see

We stopped to photograph them but just at that moment, some people came into the shop. This scared the pigeons who tried to fly out of through the doorway over the heads of the incomers. Most of them made it through by dint of skilful aerobatics but one pigeon, a bit slow to take off, found his way blocked and flew off sideways. This took him into the shop window. The pigeon was trapped behind the glass vainly trying to push his way through the transparent barrier.

Tigger asked one of the shop assistants for permission for me to go into the shop window to catch pigeon and release him outside. This was granted. There was some room for manoeuvre in the window, fortunately, but catching a frightened pigeon is not the easiest thing to do and he could have fluttered away around the display.

Tigger, however, did a clever thing: she ran her bag along the outside of the shop window driving the frightened pigeon towards me. I was able to catch him in my hands. I remembered a previous occasion when I rescued a trapped pigeon (see Showers in Bath) and this taught me to make sure to confine both wings. If the pigeon gets a wing free, he can wriggle out from between your hands. Having got a (gentle) grip on the pigeon, I took him outside, moved well away from the door, and tossed him gently into the air. He needed no further prompting and flew up and across the road to a building opposite.

Holding this live pigeon in my hands was the highlight of my day. I have said before that I love pigeons, without prejudice to whether they are domesticated pigeons or street pigeons, and there was the bonus that I was freeing one that was otherwise trapped. As I literally had my hands full, there are of course no photos of the event so you will have to imagine the drama for yourselves.

Muswell Hill Broadway
Muswell Hill Broadway

After this, we went for a bus ride. Given the cold and the fact that nothing much was open apart from a few shops, a sightseeing tour courtesy of the public bus service seemed a good option.

We got off the bus at Muswell Hill. Most shops were closed and we thought we would have a cup of something hot at the Crocodile Cafe. Alas, it too was closed.

Icicles on a fire escape
Icicles on a fire escape

We went for a little walk around and I took the photo at the top of the post. Nearby was this fire escape decorated with icicles. There was a similar patch halfway up so I hope no one had to use the stairs in an emergency, especially in the dark. A nasty accident could have ensued.

We boarded a bus once more, this one heading towards Brent Cross. This district is known for the big shopping centre of the same name. The area takes its name from the River Brent that flows through it.

The imprisoned Brent
The imprisoned Brent

The Brent would once have been a clean river running through the countryside but today it is imprisoned within artificial banks and is a repository of prams, supermarket trolleys and other detritus. I feel sad for it whenever I see it.

Brent Cross Shopping Centre was so crowded that it was hard to move through the crush of people. It also took us a long time to arrive because the access roads were jammed with traffic. The best thing was to take another bus and escape.

Al Parco
Al Parco

This bus took us to Highgate where, by one of those coincidences that aren’t really coincidences, we arrived at just the right time to have a meal in one of our favourites eating places, an Italian restaurant on the edge of Parliament Hill Fields called Al Parco for obvious reasons.

This was the second highlight of the day, and a good way to finish our Boxing Day outing. If you look carefully, you will see me reflected in one of the restaurant’s mirrors.

Copyright © 2010 SilverTiger,, All rights reserved.


About SilverTiger

I live in Islington with my partner, "Tigger". I blog about our life and our travels, using my own photos for illustration.
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4 Responses to Boxing Day highlights

  1. WOL says:

    How nice that your love of pigeons coincided with an opportunity to do a good deed. A double bonus — not only for you, but for the pigeon.

    It is often very frustrating when attempting to rescue a trapped animal or bird that their fear of humans makes them difficult to catch. Makes one wish that we could somehow communicate to the poor creature that we do not wish to harm it, but to help it.

    You and Tigger seem to know all the good veggie restaurants — maybe you should start a website resource for vegetarians and maybe you could get restaurants to pay you (or give you and Tigger a free meal?) to feature them on your website — with photos, addresses, best ways to get there, etc.

    • SilverTiger says:

      The first time I tried to pick up a pigeon I wasn’t sure I would succeed. I thought I might end up looking stupid with the pigeon evading my efforts. In fact, I succeeded easily. The only thing was that I left one wing free and the pigeon almost managed to wriggle out of my grip before I reached the door. So this time I made sure to hold both wings.

      I agree that the creature you are trying to save is likely to think you mean him harm rather than rescue. You just have to put this thought out of your mind until afterwards. I have definite reasons for knowing this as I once picked up a wounded squirrel and got badly bitten when I wouldn’t let go.

      I think there are quite a few vegetarian guides on the market. The real problem is what you do when there are no vegetarian places within striking distance. You then have to improvise.

  2. AEJ says:

    First of all, why can’t the U.S. have Boxing Day, too? Secondly, what did you have to eat at Al Parco? Thirdly, I would not touch any wild animal without gloves. You are a very good citizen.

    • SilverTiger says:

      I cannot say why the US doesn’t have Boxing Day. Also known as the feast of St Stephen, it’s an old tradition here and I have heard several explanations of its meaning. The nicest is that it was the day when the alms boxes were opened and money distributed to the poor. Another is that it is the day when people who serve us during the year – such as the postman, dustman, milkman, etc. – come to collect a small reward in cash or kind. In fact, a monetary gift at Christmas is still often referred to as a “Christmas box”, even though no boxes are involved! I remember as a child being given my “Christmas box” by relatives and family friends.

      At Al Parco I had a tricolore salad and a pizza. They cook the pizza with a crisp base, just as I like it. Tricolore (the name comes from the three colours in the dish that represent the three colours of the Italian national flag) consists of slices of tomato (red), slices of mozzarella cheese (white) and slices of avocado (green). I also had a black coffee. I think Italians make the best coffee, followed by the French.

      It probably would be wise to wear gloves when handling wild animals, firstly to avoid possible contamination (street pigeons are not the cleanest animals in the world) and secondly to avoid getting bitten. I was badly bitten once when handling a squirrel so I know the wisdom of this. On this occasion, my gloves were not up to the job and would have been a hindrance so I took them off. I made sure to wash my hands before handling food. I enjoyed holding the pigeon in my bare hands and still remember feeling the breast bone under my finger tips. The poor thing was rather thin.

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