Monday 9 November 2009

Olympics 2012 - Watch The Birdie

High in the last tree in Hackney sat a large bird with a distinct scowl hovering around its beak. Vinnie the Vulture was feeling peckish. But it was raining hard and all the human heads below had hats, hoods, plastic covers, or caps. Vinnie had hoped for a nice bright shiny bald head to take a quick bite of chewy skin from. “A bald man a day keeps the doctor away!” his mother Vileda had always said to urge him to eat a healthy diet. Vinnie had never known why his mother had been given this name but suspected that her parents had thought it to be one of those upper class names that defy explanation. There are few female names that begin with a “V”, and as everybody knows, all vultures must have a name beginning with “V”.

The long arcing branch shuddered, and Vinnie was peeved when he realised another bird had taken up station beside him. It was Sue the Sparrow, and it was especially annoying to have her endless mindless chatter. After twittering on for what seemed an age about the exchanges she had had with what seemed to be every bird in London, she then asked a direct question. “Have you thought of going vegetarian?” she asked Vinnie. He nearly fell off the branch.

But clinging on for a moment he asked the obvious question “How in the stratosphere do I tell a human who eats meat from one who doesn’t?” “Well, the vegetarians sort of slouch and look aimlessly about them.” Sue said this in such a positive and knowing way that Vinnie knew she was simply retailing some gossip from Winnie the Woodpecker, the most unreliable bird in London. Winnie had developed a taste for large cannabis plants and their insect life in the belief they would make her happy, and because of a shortage of woodpecker friendly trees in the area since the Mayor of London had chopped so many down to make seats of local timber for the coming Olympic Games to save the rain forests, and to economise on street sweeping. “Anyhow,” said Sue, “I eat insects who eat only plants and they are lean and tasty enough.”

Vinnie had heard enough and it was time to eat, so he flapped off the branch making it bounce so hard that Sue was propelled in the direction of the block of flats that was infested with feral cats. “Serve her right!” thought Vinnie as he hovered over a bright new City tower for a short time, inspiring the toiling workers in the offices below. They worked seven days a week for a speculative financial fund, and a sighting of Vinnie was held to be a good omen of a business disaster that would be to their advantage and a prosperous early retirement.

It was Saturday, and there were there football matches to be played. One was at West Ham United, and a full house was promised for the game against Arsenal. A West Ham United home game always ensured a good supply of human body parts left lying around after the two teams’ supporters had discussed the legitimacy of the result. But a vulture had to be quick to grab them before the purveyors of hot dogs and sandwiches hoping to stock up for the coming week. The mortal remains of Arsenal supporters made a splendid meal for the discerning scavenger. They fed on rich food and fat meat and the expensive wines they liked to consume meant that they were always well marinated.

Normally he would head for the Palace of Westminster where a naked researcher left tied to a railing might be found as an offering to The Gods for failing to convert fanciful fictions into convincing facts. But it was one of the many very long vacations needed by the politicians to add to their pension funds and the researchers went to internet cafĂ©’s to huddle together over instant messenger conversations with journalists, who unlike their employers paid good money for the information and insights they had to offer.

So Vinnie decided to head East hoping for a decent meal behind the goal at the north end. He had gone only a short way when he saw crowds of howling humans fighting for access to buses. It was Liverpool Street Station, closed again without warning, and tens of thousands of ticket holding travellers were left to find another way home.

Because the railway was expected to be in perfect order for the Olympic Games, the Mayor of London had decreed that Liverpool Street Station be kept as free as possible from the inconvenience of passengers in the meantime. Vinnie had no interest in trains, in spite of an ancestor’s affection for the steam locomotive 61672 “West Ham United” that had worked the Norwich line so many years ago and provided organic food by regularly mowing down railway labourers on the tracks.

He was looking for casualties that would be found in the mayhem below. The Railway Disturbances when all the London termini had closed for three months to be decorated with the Olympic Logo at the same time that the London Underground closed for the re-branding of lines in the sponsors names, had provided food for thought for Vinnie. It was inevitable, of course, that the conversion of the District Line to The Coca Cola Experience had become more generally known as The Coke Line

It was not long before a prime young human became available. The Armed Response Squad had arrived and had begun to put travellers out of their misery. The Mayor of London had recruited the most active gun gangs into the Squad, which at a stroke of the ballpoint brought about a major decrease in gun crime, and an increase in the numbers of crimes solved, more or less. It also helped to cull the dissenting groups and ensure that the Olympics opinion polls looked good without resort to the more obvious forms of manipulation.

The Burger Bar riots by the YOB (young obese) because of huge price rises following the shift to biofuels in agriculture had created some bad publicity. The Mayor had lobbied hard for cheap aviation and motor fuels because the Olympic Games required the wealthy spectators from far and wide able to afford the ticket prices. The propertied and political-media classes claimed that their way of living was in danger and there had been falls in the advertising revenues of the life style supplements.

There had been protests amongst others who had no hope of attending the Games. Those on social security had protested also when part of their benefits had been withheld as compulsory purchases of lottery tickets for added funding for the Games. That the money had gone on lottery tickets was not the issue, much of their benefits already were spent on tickets. It was that the prizes for the compulsory benefit entries consisted of free tickets to the early rounds of the Flatwater Canoeing, Graeco-Roman Wrestling, Trampoline and Softball events, transport not included. This “Big Idea” of the Mayor’s had been accepted too readily by the government.

There was a clatter of sound a short time after Vinnie had begun to work on his meal. It was Sue the Sparrow again. She seemed to have lost a leg and a great many feathers. “You bastard!” she shrieked. “You should have said big bastard. Bastardy is a necessary condition of vulture culture” growled Vinnie. “We don’t do anthropomorphic posturing like you lot.” He continued to rip out a liver; it was badly scarred like most of those of the younger generation humans, but had a certain exotic flavour that vultures appreciated. Sue put on her clever cheeky look which was supposed to endear her to others, “those men with guns will get you and we won’t be warbling with woe like what we did with Cock Robin!”

Vinnie closed one eye, “Birds with red breast make attractive targets, just like sparrow with one leg.” Sue ignored him and began to hop towards the Squad cheeping in friendly tones. She was met with a rain of slugs from their Uzi Automatic Weapons. The Mayor had decreed that London must shed its past in time for the Olympics. Cockney Sparrows were history or rather in Sue’s case to become clouds of particles blown away on the wind, with a little help from the Uzi’s.

Having enjoyed his canapé of liver, Vinnie took off quickly, and wondered why the Squad had left him alone. At first he flapped gently about the luxury developments and new hospitals in Stepney that the Mayor had requisitioned for homes and physiotherapy facilities for all the athletes and sports people recruited from abroad to be naturalised citizens of the UK in time for the Games. Many tasty samples were to he had. The weightlifters were slow to move and big enough to promise a successful swoop. Bulgarians were a premium source of protein, but the Ukrainians had a dangerous tendency to react very violently and very quickly.

By following the new Olympic Way being bulldozed through the poorer districts, a motorway needed for the competitors and elite guests, Vinnie was soon wheeling above the Boleyn Stand at Upton Park, and saw that another vulture was perched there. He settled a short distance apart hoping this did not mean competition and then realised it was a female, indeed Vitriola, the Toast of Tottenham, famed for her beauty, at least amongst vultures. She preened a little and then gave Vinnie a full sighting of her reproductive parts. Vinnie realised he was no longer alone and could soon be father of his own flock. As vultures said in Essex, his homeland, this was an offer he could not refuse.

The question was where would they settle? It would have to be a suitable roost for a rapidly growing family of several generations, and therefore need to be somewhere else than West Ham United where many of the fans could hit a fast moving striker at fifty yards with a half empty water bottle. Little vultures would be easy pickings. The other sporting stadia were just as bad. Chelsea was the worst, where not only the players, but the wildlife had to endure a continuing rain of celery sticks from demented fans, sundry celebrities and senior members of the government. As for places further away, he had once met a veteran vulture, a survivor of the horrors of Twickenham who could not bear to croak about it. It wasn’t just being stuffed live that was the worst; it was what they used for the stuffing.

As her dowry Vitriola had good news for Vinnie. She had seen it in a newspaper whilst she had rested on the shoulder of a trapped commuter on Finsbury Park Station. The Mayor of London had decreed the vulture to be the symbol of the new age, and they were not just a protected species, but now were an integral part of the body disposal industry enabling large savings on cemeteries, now mostly training centres for the coming Olympics, and by displacing cremation enabling the Mayor to meet the London carbon emission targets in time for the Games. The Armed Response Squad had adopted the vulture as its symbol. Even the City of London had decided to co-operate and had declared itself to he the international home of vulture funds, with huge tax breaks for the predators of the world of business, and consequently the major, almost the only, source of lending for the Government.

Eagles and Lions were out; the Vultures and Rats were in, and the 21st Century had really arrived. Soon it would be 2012 with the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games, and the disasters that would ensue would make London a land free for vultures. Vinnie and Vitriola pecked each other affectionately on the necks. There was only one way to go; they rose into the air, scattered their droppings on the Arsenal supporters, and headed for the great new stadium to the North West. As they flew towards the rays of the setting sun, the light gave a golden sheen to their talons. It would be the only gold that Britain would enjoy in the whole of the Games to come.

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