Don’t even think about doing these things

AS A SPECIAL TREAT when I was a young child, I was allowed to feed the pigeons on Piazza Signoria in Florence (Italy), a city we visited annually during my childhood. My parents used to purchase paper cones filled with corn kernels for my sister and me. We used to put a few of these in the palms of our hands and allow the pigeons to perch on our fingertips whilst they fed on the corn. Looking back on this activity, which gave me great pleasure, I am surprised that my health and hygiene conscious mother allowed what the former Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, called ‘rats with wings’ to risk sullying our hands and harming our health.

Oddly, when we were kids, we fed the pigeons in Florence but never fed their cousins that flocked around Trafalgar Square in London. Today, the 25th of April 2022, my wife and I walked across Trafalgar Square and observed that nowadays there are signs that indicate that feeding pigeons is forbidden. However, this activity, which I enjoyed as a child on holiday in Florence, is not the only thing forbidden in Trafalgar Square. The lovely fountains in the square now contain signs in the water, on which the words “No Entry” are written. Yet another activity in the square is no longer allowed. There are signs to deter visitors from climbing on the sculptures of the lions that lie at the base of Nelson’s Column. So, when you next visit Trafalgar Square with plans of feeding the pigeons, or bathing in the fountains (even to celebrate New Year), or straddling a lion, do not realise any of them: they are all outlawed.

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