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  • Writer's pictureShoshana Surek

Pigeons in Cerebro

If you visited Trafalgar Square in the 1990s, what probably struck you first was the name. It used to be Charing Cross. The area commemorated the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar; and then, in 1845, John Nash redesigned the square and created the monument. It is now owned by the Queen under the Right of the Crown policy.… wait, no, I didn’t think about any of those things. And neither did you.

Let’s start over.

If you visited Trafalgar Square in the 1990s, what probably struck you first was pigeon poop. Little white dings of pigeon waste flying through the air, catching you by surprise, and aimed directly at your eyeball. Pigeons, that is what strikes you first. And last.

Yes, I am talking about pigeons.

I can’t think Trafalgar Square without pigeons landing on the words. One or three alight on the e. Two more gents land on the T. I think Trafalgar Square, and there they are.

Ca roo! Coo Coo!

It was not just the quantity of pigeons which struck me as fantastic and notable.

For those of you who have not witnessed Trafalgar Square and the pigeons, it was the culture, the culture de pigeon, that made me pause. Every morning, I watched as the street musicians, human statues, and pigeon-feed carts set up for the day. Yes, I said pigeon-feed carts. They sold pigeon seed on paper plates for 25 pence a serving. The tourists were eager to queue up to purchase specialized pigeon feed.

People would laugh and shriek and feed and photo.

The pigeons would coo and eat and mock and poop.

It was a vicious cycle of photos and pooping.

It was comical and entertaining and messy and crazy.

And here it is: Trafalgar Square represents my twice-exceptional mind.

…… BUMP BEAT BREAK….. Twice-exceptional is used to describe the gifted and learning disabled (ASD, SPD, ADD, ADHD, Dyslexia, Enter Your Own Acronym Here, etc). Identifying twice-exceptional learners can be difficult, and it is always complicated. The advanced cognitive ability might mask or compensate for the learning disabilities. The learning disabilities often mask, or get in the way of, the giftedness. It is another type of vicious cycle….. Coo! I digress (as is my pigeonesque nature). Back to it…

I am visual. I give everything a picture. And, I am Twice-Exceptional (2e).

What does my mind have to do with pigeons? Why are pigeons in cerebro? Why is she using a fancy, and very inaccurate, way to say pigeons on the brain? Not all questions are meant to be answered; however, let me get to the first one straight away.

There are too many pigeons. They flap and fall and peck and coo and gather. They mill and bump and squawk and fight. They reproduce seamlessly; and when they do, they arrive as full-sized birds (I mean, has anyone seen a baby pigeon?). The pigeons get in the way of the square, of the history, of the story, and of the vacationers. They keep on keeping on, as it were… and they do it all with just one desire: to eat and eat and eat and eat.

The tourists gather around and snap pictures. They smile and laugh and shriek, because pigeons in that quantity are fun, freaky, and different. They buy food and feed it to the hungry critters. They become overwhelmed by the mob of pigeons who are not satisfied with one or forty plates of seed.

It doesn’t take long for tourists to run for the safety of the Underground. They decide it is time to check out the Palace. Ah yes, Buckingham Palace, where pigeons eat properly, one grain at a time, thank you very much, and know better than to sit on your head and poop on your shoulder.

My brain is the Trafalgar Square Pigeons.

Even in England, where the queue is second to godliness, the pigeons do not form a tidy line and patiently await further instruction. Of course they don’t. Everything, absolutely everything, is an absolute onslaught. Every seed of an idea is pecked at a million times, in a million directions, by a million beaks. Every thought, image, movement, and emotion, flutters in packs, in singles, in crazed-eyed cooing. There is nowhere safe to have a seat and think quietly; and if you are not careful, the thoughts, images, movements, and emotions will sit on you.

They are relentless.

And I can’t just shoo them away. I know, I’ve tried. They just won’t chill out. Not with a plate of seed in each of my hands, and certainly not when I run through the Square shrieking, pulling at my hair, and catching dings of white poop on my cheek.

So what do I do? I drop the plates. Seed scatters everywhere. The pigeons are not fooled. They alight on my arms and head, they peck the seeds off my shoes, and they ca roo ca roo coo coo coo toward me. They advance. All millions and billions of them, as my imagination overexcitability pictures, and I see it then: a girl being carried far, far away by hungry pigeons.

But really, I just stand there, arms out, and I sigh.

Even if I try to shoo them away, they just regroup. They land again a few feet from me, hungrier than before.

They are my brain.

Ugh! Ca roo, coo! What can I do? How can I help my own twice-exceptional child when I can barely clear my own mind from Pigeoninitis?

When I found out that my oldest was twice-exceptional (though it seems to me all gifted kids have a touch of Pigeon), I felt like a tourist. I was desperate to snap the perfect photo to share his gifts. I wanted the teachers and caregivers to see beyond the issues, so that they could share in his whimsical, wonderful, and amazing, not just his strange, chaotic, and stumbling.

If you or your child feels like I do, like there are pigeons in cerebro, try practicing a few pigeon pre-game rituals:

  • release only one, two, or twenty birds at a time;

  • imagine bigger seed. Those little beaks are horrible at picking up broccoli, for instance, so feed them broccoli for a day. They won’t leave, but they’ll look elsewhere, while casting furtive glances your way;

  • leave the area. It may be best to go across the street to a little café. From there, watch the chaos whilst reading, writing, or hiding.

  • accept the birds. The pigeons, though they may seem impervious, are emotional creatures. Each one desires friendship, understanding, and seed. Don’t forget the seed. They may (or may not) have little mouths at home waiting to be fed.

  • laugh. laugh often. It really, truly, and pigeonly is the best medicine that I know!

I am visual. I am 2e. And I have pigeons on the brain. Here is how I get through

  • I take a picture, run around, and I scream. Then, I have a nice cup of tea; because the truth is, when you reflect on the journey, you don’t care about the pictures that you took, you just like to laugh about the pigeons that led up to it.

* * *

The Pigeons demanded I honour them with a summarised wrap-up of the issue: After twenty years of encouraging millions of tourists to feed feral pigeons, the 1990s saw the largest growth of feral pigeons Trafalgar Square had ever recorded. They were, quite literally, getting in the way of commerce, traffic, and meaningful family photos. The government did away with the pigeon feed carts, and has returned the population to a number that Great Britain deems acceptable. Though, I’m sad to report that they have not published the GBAPN (Great Britain Acceptable Pigeon Number). I find that it would be quite useful for those of us who would like to compare said number to the USAPN. “Why would you want to know that?” asks the completely sensible person. “For all the reasons above,” I say.

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