Musical deck chairs - observations on pigeon feeding and chaise lounging in London parks

Cavorting through the lush playgrounds of London’s Royal Parks required an abundance of energy and stamina that often wore out, after endless hours spent traipsing about the grass, frolicking with the dogs and foolhardily attempting to keep up with the joggers.  All tuckered out, in desperate need of a nap and a siesta, anxious to “put my feet up” and take a load off of my weary pink-sneakered tootsies, I happened to spy several inviting deck chairs, conveniently scattered along the perimeters of the park.  Beckoning one to “come on over”, sit down and blissfully lounge the hours away in a cocoon of luxurious contentment, the striped recliners were a welcoming oasis of tranquility for my sore and blistered feet (yup, again!!).  Hobbling over to one of the lone outdoor lawn chairs, I was immensely grateful to have stumbled across such a wondrous find.  My curiosity was further piqued upon viewing that the majority of these stupendous recliners sat forlorn and empty, devoid of human companions, with most people preferring to park themselves beside the chairs, on the not so comfortable prickly grass.  Momentarily bewildered as to why they would choose to forgo the comfi-ness of a readily available cushy seat, I gave it nary a thought and eagerly plunked myself down on said deck chair.

Happily munching on a hot dog while absent-mindedly throwing left over scraps to the grossly over-fed squawking pigeons, I happened to notice a park employee marching directly towards me.  Berating myself for not having noticed the “do not feed the pigeons” sign, I was seriously contemplating playing the “clued-out tourist” role, ready to plead ignorance of failing to abide by London’s official park rules.  Carrying what seemed to be a mini metered oblong gadget, the park official approached me and asked whether or not I had a “ticket” in my possession.  Pardon me?  A ticket?  For what?  Feeding the pigeons?  Wow!  The Brits certainly are super strict about enforcing those pigeon feeding regulations! Yikes!!

Babbling incoherently that I had just arrived from Canada and was not yet familiar with the customs and traditions of just hanging out in the park, I frantically strove to clear the “crime scene”, mercilessly scrapping with the now belligerent pigeons for any remaining and damming crumbs of evidence.  I was therefore startled to learn that providing sustenance for the birds was not a punishable offense, but sitting on park deck chairs was subject to payment of £1.50 per hour. Like, seriously? Are you kidding me?

Relieved that I wouldn’t be hauled before the court magistrates on the charges of endangering the well-being of future generations of winged species by gorging their over-stuffed bellies on a diet of processed meat and bread, I eagerly dug out a couple of coins, thereby guaranteeing myself a worry free full hour of “reserved” seating on prime real estate park grounds.

And then it dawned on me, as if a light bulb sparked a luminescent jolt of long-forgotten wisdom, as I slowly clued into the reality that hardly anyone was willing to fork over a couple of pence for the luxury of lounging on her majesty’s royal park recliners – hence, I suspect, the reason why the fabulous lawn chairs remained largely unoccupied.

Reserved ticket in hand, secure in staking claim to an engrossing 60 minutes of people watching from my comfy deck lounger, I was thoroughly entertained as I witnessed the antics of unsuspecting park patrons scramble and skedaddle from their striped lawn chairs, upon being confronted by Mr Official Deck Chair Enforcer, as he asked them to cough up a couple of coins for the privilege of lounging on the park recliners.  Making the rounds from deck chair to deck chair, Mr Chair Enforcer was diligent in collecting all that was due to the royal park coffers, encountering a melange of reactions along the way.  From the backpacking lovey- dovey couple who were appalled at being evicted from their cuddle nest - to the undignified cursing of seemingly normal parents of two adorable toddlers who perceived themselves to be unjustly uprooted from their chaises– to sincerely apologetic joggers who happily paid the chair rental fee, grateful to put their feet up and rest for the next couple of hours – I was delightfully amused by the incredible lengths some people would stoop to in order to avoid having to pay the park’s extremely economical chaise rental fee.  Needless to say, my one hour turned into two hours, which then extended into the remainder of the afternoon, so mesmerized was I by the comical escapades of certain extremely stingy cheapskates, seeking to save a couple of pounds by high-tailing to the hills upon glimpsing sight of Mr Deck Chair Enforcer.

Come hang out in the park and lounge on your choice of denizens of striped comfy recliners as you over-feed the pigeons and laugh hysterically at the entertaining antics of the walkers, joggers and chaise loungers – just another day in the park spent communing with nature and the birds and the bees.

Next week – where do my pink-sneakered feet end up?? Stay tuned!!

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