Bitesize Episode 38 - A Short Story: Percy the Pigeon Falls in Love

Charlie Baxter

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What's this episode about?

In this episode Charlie tries his hand at storytelling. He gives you a tale about a pigeon that lives in the heart of London who decides that today is the day he will say hello to a bird he has fallen in love with. Get ready for a random but hopefully enjoyable way to be exposed to a load of cultural references and British English.
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Transcript of Bitesize Ep 038 - Transcript

Hello. Hello. This is the British English podcast. I am your host, Charlie Baxter. And in this episode, I have attempted to create a story to. Well, there's a couple of reasons, really. The first reason to provide you with a way to engage with culture and language in a fun way, and secondly, to continue to practise my storytelling skills as I am developing them for myself and for you, because one day I want to provide you with a course on how to tell stories with confidence in English. And I want to create a series of short stories for you to be able to purchase. And thirdly, this is definitely not the main reason, but a big contribution to this episode is because I was in a cafe wondering what this week's episode should be themed around, and a little pigeon popped its head around the corner and it caught my attention. And then, as you will find out, my imagination. It's a really random one and a weird ending, but there are a lot of cultural references that will be explained in the glossaries. So Premium or academy members will definitely benefit from that today. And also note that I play with some of the phrases with the story being told through the eyes of a bird. So do keep that in mind as I don't want you coming away from this episode thinking that, for example, if something is nearby that you can say it is within wing's reach, it's within arm's reach in the human world you and I live in.

So yeah, I know that you'll be sucked into this imaginary world, but remember, you have been warned. Okay, this one runs a little longer than I aim bitesize episodes to go for, but if you've been listening to this show for a while, you'll already know it's a problem that haunts me. So forgive me for wanting to give you more. So I give you a short story called Percy The Pigeon Falls in Love. Percy's beak twitched ever so subtly, but enough to signal to his nephews who were nearby that he was stirring. It was hard to predict when Percy the Pigeon would come to each morning. He would sometimes get an urge to rise bright and early, be the first to spread his wings and be that cliche early bird that catches the worm. Although, to let you in on something, it was more common to find Percy searching for the crumbs of a pastry outside Greggs, which he found far more enjoyable than a worm. He would never be able to admit this to anyone, not even his closest of pigeon friends, because they would tease him immensely for being such a city bird. The worm was, in all senses, the creme de la creme for any small bird, but for Percy, it was simply too viscous. He would even have to try and hide his gagging reflex when eating worms to try and fit in with the flock.

No, no. He'd take a piece of dry chicken any day over a slimy worm. And remember, for pigeons, eating chicken is close to cannibalism. So some days he'd be up at the crack of dawn. But when the cold got to him, he'd like to tuck his beak deep into his full chest of feathers all the way until the clock struck 12. This was, of course, no longer as possible as he'd like, since his brother had had a couple of squabs. He was very happy for his brother to have found the one settled down and made a family of his own. But what didn't make him so happy was how they would squawk in his ear as soon as he'd stir to see if he'd play with them. Often he'd get so worked up about the idea of making any kind of involuntary movement in the morning that he'd be sat there wide awake, just focussing on not moving a single muscle. But this morning the game was up because he'd been dreaming about the big day ahead of him. And oh golly, it was a good dream. In the dream, he was doing everything as he had hoped, and it was all going to plan. But he guessed his beak must have moved just at that moment that he was reaching out to kiss his lovebird for the first time. Oh. In the dream she smelled so delightful, although he had to say that the smell was familiar to him, which was a little strange.

You see, Percy had recently fallen for someone. That was actually an understatement. He had, in fact, fallen head over heels in love. But the embarrassing thing was that he hadn't even plucked up the courage to say hello to this lovebird yet. He was a bit of a shy one, and despite even struggling to look at himself in the mirror since he was a squab, he had been telling himself for the last two weeks to just be brave enough and say something to her. Anything. And yet here he sat a fortnight later and she still didn't know of his existence. But today he was going to follow through on his promise because his dream had given him a stroke of genius. This time he would fetch all of his favourite things from around town and take them to her as a gift and let the presents do the talking. So in a way, he was pleased to have been woken early by his nephews. He catered to their needs for a short while until enough was enough, and he left his sister in law to it. He stretched his wings, leant over the edge of the top of Nelson's column, and let himself dive down towards the floor of Trafalgar Square. Oh, he adored this moment of the day. It made him so thankful to be who he was. And despite all of the amazing food the humans seemed to all have, he wasn't at all envious of their sedentary, grounded lifestyle.

It seemed so two dimensional. He'd take their food scraps any day if it meant being able to continue to soar between buildings and swoop around buses. So down he plummeted building speed every moment because he liked to challenge himself to a game of pigeon every morning. Now, for those of you who don't know what pigeon is, it's a bit like the game humans call chicken. But pigeon was just you and the ground and no one else. You had to wait until the very last second to flap your wings and avoid death by the skin of your teeth. In fact, when he was younger, him and his friends would all egg each other on until one day things got out of hand. And his classmate, Fred, well, he's now dead. The class all gave him the respect he deserved, though, for winning the game. They threw him a grand send off by doing an RPAF fly-past. Now there's great dispute over what came first, the RAF or the RPAF. The humans from the Royal Air Force arrogantly dismissed the RPAF and don't even recognise them as a legitimate military defence organisation. And then the counter argument that the pigeons continue to chirp away about is that humans couldn't even fly until the 1900s. And pigeons, well, they've not only been flying for longer than you or I could count up to, but they've also been doing royal fly pasts on a weekly basis around the world for millennia.

Royal pigeon air force fly pasts are when a flock organise a timed flight with a formation that includes some of their best bombers known to pigeon. The ammo is bird poop, the targets are human heads, and the reward, well the reward is pure pride. And you'll start to notice that those pigeons who walk with their heads held high, bobbing back and forth the most aggressively are some of the most decorated RPAF bomber pilots who are quite literally weighed down with all the medals that they carry, hence the aggressive bobbing. But we digress. Ever since that day that Fred passed away, Percy would always make his first flap a little bit earlier than he'd like to. And so he flapped and flapped his wings and up he soared. And to Percy's delight, he noticed that there was a certain crispness in the air this morning that he enjoyed very much so, which reminded him how him and his family had received many postcards from relatives around the world, telling them of other climates and how much better the weather was elsewhere. But he felt a certain attachment and almost fondness to the weather here in London and couldn't help but feel annoyed whenever anyone from a far off land would slate it. He had been to a few classes on pigeon ego before, but still this always managed to hurt his feelings somewhat. Anyway, today there was no need to get bogged down with these silly thoughts because he had to pick up the pace and get to his first port of call.

A few minutes of flying as the crow flies and he had reached Buckingham Palace. He circled around the Royal Guard before choosing his victim. You see, one day when he was only a little squab himself, he remembered how his father had brought some of the softest and most comforting pieces of furniture for the nest. He remembered snuggling up by it and how it kept him oh so very warm. Years later, it dawned on him that that warm bit of snuggly fluff was indeed from the busbies those red soldiers would wear on their heads. So he swooped down just as a tourist was trying to distract this one pimple ridden member of the Royal Guard and kamikazed into the bearskin. It toppled off the soldier's head to expose a packet of Jacob's mini cheddars perched on his head while the soldier grabbed for them in hope of not going hungry nor going viral and bringing shame upon his comrades on both the social media version of Twitter and the literal one, Percy the Pigeon had time to peck away at the busby to grab a substantial amount of bear fur, and off he flew. Chuffed to bits with how he had successfully completed his first mission, he adjusted his onboard compass in the direction of Hyde Park and on he flew. He knew that there were many places to get this second token of appreciation, but he seemed to remember there being an inordinate amount of them in the bins that are scattered throughout this park.

He just hoped that they hadn't emptied the bins since yesterday lunchtime. Surprisingly, Percy could never quite remember when Bin Day was, despite the fact that his family all knew London's rubbish collecting schedule like the back of their hand. Or, if you will allow me, like the back of their claw. He glided over the grounds of Hyde Park until he found a bin that was full to the brim. It only took him a few seconds to spot a sandwich wrapper with the impressionable red sticker that had the words meal deal on it, or so he thought it was pronounced. The meaning of those two words always went over Percy's head, but that wasn't important. What was important was how sticky those stickers were if you pulled them off the right way, because they made for a great bed for the bearskin fur to stick to. Now, Percy doesn't love going near bins, but with the thought of his lovebird's reaction to his clever little nesting gift, he knew it was going to be worth it. So when nobody was looking, he hopped in the bin to scoop the sandwich wrapper out, peeled the sticker off like a pro, gently placed the sticker upside down on the floor and hopped on it with all the fur that he had collected in his little claws. And you know what? It worked even better than he had imagined.

Grinning from ear to ear, he soared back up into the sky, knowing full well that he was in with a chance of getting lucky tonight. The next place he needed to go was much easier to find, as he just needed to keep an eye out for the London Eye. And then he'd practically be within arm's reach or wing's reach of one of London's biggest train stations. When he got to the Millennium Wheel, he couldn't help but spend a moment weaving through the individual pods. But on the last one where he managed to get incredibly close to the glass, he could have sworn he had seen his lovebird out of the corner of his eye. Embarrassed by the idea of seeing her earlier than planned, he made a beeline for Waterloo Station without looking back. Entering this location was a little tricky for a pigeon, but once in it was pretty good fun. The main entrance had too many steps to hop up, so he dropped down outside the west entrance and had to time when he would waddle his way in when the route was clear because Percy had hated human crowds ever since the incident last year, when he was minding his own business, a little child thought it would be fun to run after him. He fluttered casually out of the way, but almost had a heart attack as he landed straight in front of a barking dog. To avoid being mauled to death, he lurched to the left directly into the firing line of a corporate banker's shoe. He kicked Percy firmly in the chest. Thankfully, though, this is Percy's proudest feature. It's a strong, puffy and fluffy chest. So although the incident didn't hurt him physically for too long, that wanker that kicked him had given him a slight complex about crowds. Alas, with no break in the constant flow of footfall, Percy needed to muster up some courage. He took a couple of deep breaths and proceeded to Bob towards the entrance. He bobbed and weaved and bobbed some more, and thankfully this time managed to make it through in one piece. Now all he needed to do was source one of those orangey looking tickets that people in London obsess over one minute and discard the next. Why does Percy want one of these? I hear you ask. Well, Percy's brother had, in fact, wooed his lovebird with the orange tag he was made to wear after being caught multiple times flying drunk. She was clearly mesmerised by it, and when their father saw Percy looking over in a confused yet contemplative manner, he knew that it was time to sit his son down and tell him all about the birds and the bees. After giving Percy the talk, Percy said he understood, but still his question about the colour orange persisted in the back of his mind. So he asked his father if he knew about it. His father responded by saying that in the human world, diamonds are a girl's best friend.

But what female pigeons want above all else, is a bit of orange in their life. He continued on by saying, Legend has it that owls fear the colour orange and so it provides for the most secure nesting experience a male pigeon can offer. Before Percy jumped up to find some orange paint to roll around in, his father reminded him that one should strike a balance as too much orange and you're an easy target for a fox. Ever since that day, Percy has been a teeny bit jealous of the orange anklet his brother had been forced to wear. However, being far too much of a goody two shoes to ever go drink flying, he wondered how to adorn himself in a subtle speck of orange. And then, not long after giving up on the idea, he was pecking away at the floor in Clapham Common when he came across what he thought was some exotic piece of rice. But at closer inspection he found that it was some rolled up orange cardboard. He then noticed the train ticket that lay nearby with the top portion missing, as if it had been torn off deliberately. He hastened to wrap this piece of orange around his ankle, but found it to be a little sodden and in his excitement it tore apart when he was unravelling it. So here we are today in hope of recreating one of those rolled pieces of orange cardboard to wrap around Percy's ankle and become a truly mesmerising male piece of arse.

Bobbing along the floor of Waterloo Station. Some standalone machines with a bit of orange on them caught his eye. He waddled over and to his delight, he saw a woman fishing an orange cardboard ticket out of the machine. He flapped himself high enough to see into one of the translucent trays and nearly forgot to flap when he saw a whole stack of them in the corner of the tray that read to him as receipt. He waited for another passenger to buy a ticket and when they opened the tray, he went for it. He knew he was at risk of being walloped by a brolly that the passenger was carrying. But thankfully, they seemed to be in too much of a rush to get to the gate to even care. He fluttered up to one of the beams in the roof with his three prized possessions. Now, for the delicate procedure of ripping and rolling, we will speed up time as if it were a time lapse. After all, this is a bitesize episode. And as we slow the time lapse down to normal speed, we can see a strapping young pigeon named Percy with his brand new orange anklet firmly in place. Feeling like he'd just taken a big swig of liquid luck, He tucked the fluffy nest of fur tightly into his claws, swooped down, swerved through the crowds, and out through the entrance with a new level of accuracy to his flying most pigeons could only dream of. Out of Waterloo, and he flew north until finding the River Thames and continued to follow it round the bend going east.

He was so excited to show off his new look and gift that he flew faster than ever before. He got to such a staggering speed that when he went over Southwark Bridge, he was flashed by a speeding camera, blissfully unaware that he'd be hearing from the DVLA soon, he continued on to London Bridge and took a sharp turn right, because this is where he had previously set eyes upon his lovebird. He just hoped she would be in the same place as she often was around this time of day. He flew until he came to the end of London Bridge Train Station and knew he had gone too far. He doubled back and flew in circles around the area until he could have sworn he saw her again only in the corner of his eye. And before he could get a good look at her, she was gone. Perplexed, he took a wide turn in hope of going back to the spot where she had just vanished. After completing the turn and straightening up, he thought he could see her coming closer and closer. And before he knew it, bam. It smacked straight into her. Down. They fell side by side, hurtling faster and faster until splosh. Percy had landed in a bucket of water in the middle of the sky.

When he opened his eyes, he saw not one but two tufts of fur stuck to a sticker reading meal deal floating down towards him. He followed them as they approached and just as one landed on his head, there opposite him, the other tuft of fur landed atop the bird of his dreams, who was also in a bucket of water. Poor little Percy couldn't quite wrap his head around this one immediately. And I might indeed need to clarify something for those of you who are still playing catch up. As we mentioned earlier, being a shy boy, Percy had always struggled to come to terms with his reflection and his identity. And because of this, he became a little, dare I say, ignorant of the fact that the tallest building called the Shard was made entirely of glass. And on this day of question, the window cleaners were out completing their mammoth task. So hopefully you can now see how the lovebird that Percy had been obsessing over for the last fortnight was in fact just his reflection when flying past this building. You see, it's not just humans that have a complex relationship with their gender and sexual identity. Pigeons also have gender fluidity and LGBT+ society, and some, like Percy, are auto sexual meaning they are more attracted to themselves than to others. Welcome to London, the city that embraces all types of modern day thinking. At this point of the story, you might be a little alarmed at where we leave Percy, but please do give him or them some privacy.

After all, he's just realised who the love of his life is. And given that he's in a bubbling bath of water with a 300 metre long mirror to play with. I think you, me and the window cleaners should leave him to it. Now we are. I hope you didn't find that ending too strange. I personally found it very useful to write that story out because I recently came across a new storytelling structure. And yeah, I wanted to give it a whirl. There are definitely parts in that story that I don't love, but I only gave myself a couple of days to write that one again as a bit of a challenge. But I think you'll agree there were a huge amount of intermediate to advanced phrases packed into that one story, along with many cultural references. Thank you very much for listening to the end of this episode. And if you thought this story was terrible, then I'm in half a mind to agree with you, but hopefully you can at least come away being reminded that to learn a skill, you need to be comfortable making mistakes and learning from them. We'll leave it there for today. Have a lovely week. And if you do get pooed on by a pigeon, then just know you've helped that bird climb the ranks within the Royal Pigeon Airforce. My name is Charlie. See you next time on the British English podcast.

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Podcast host: Charlie:
This will be quite a bit harder for you to understand, as there are a number of accents in the conversation, some poorly delivered at times, as you will notice.

Podcast host: Charlie:
But the aim is to give you a variety of dialects in one conversation and some dialogue to give you native expressions in context. So enter, if you will, to Charlie's pub and his imaginary world.

Character: Mike:
Alright geezer, how's it going?

Character: Chris:
Yes, I'm well thanks. How about you? Have you had a good day?

Character: Mike:
Can't say good mate. No my old man he's been giving me a right old earful for what happened on site last week.

Character: Chris:
Oh that's a pity. Are you back on your dad's building project again?

Character: Mike:
Sad to say mate, but yeah, I am. Couldn't resist this one though. Cash in hand, you know.

Character: Chris:
Oh fair play, hard to resist those I imagine. Oh, here she is.

Character: Emily:
Oh, hi.

Character: Chris:
I was wondering if you're ever going to join us tonight.

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