Sweet Bird Of Disaster

20 May 2007

I went with my son to a child’s party where we were asked to make birds. I made the worst bird of all. I had decided to join the kids making the birds because I thought it would be good therapy after a tough week at work. But instead of finding the process soothing, a rising tide of panic engulfed me as I stuck on the eyes in a wonky fashion and I plastered the feathers on randomly. I kept thinking I must be able to do a better job than these six-year-olds! Sooner or later, this bird is going to look good. But somehow my bird turned into a disaster. John, an actor’s agent, who was partly supervising the proceedings at the party, said, ‘Oh dear, that is poor.’ He was embarrassed for me. I hid the bird from all the other parents as they came to pick up their children, sneaking out of the party without saying my proper goodbyes, such was my shame. On the way home, I tried to throw the wretched bird in the bin, but my son wouldn’t let me. He said, ‘Dad, it’s a great bird, you should put it on your desk.’ He made me pick the wretched bird out of the litter bin on Pentonville Road.

But then, as I was walking along the busy streets with the bird in my hands, a weird thing started to happen: people started to smile at me. An old lady came up to me and said, ‘Did you make that?’ I confessed that I thought my bird was terrible. She shook her head vehemently, ‘No, no, it’s very good. It’s so colourful.’ But I could see she was smiling as she walked away.

I decided that I wouldn’t be ashamed. The bird’s wonkiness, its woeful lumpiness, its pathetic garish colour scheme gave it a certain charm — it made people smile.

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