Ceramic Birds

You can count on the fingers of one, deformed, hand the number of ornithologists who have paid serious attention to the clay pigeon. This is rather surprising, as it is a highly unusual bird. Unlike most birds, the clay pigeon has neither feathers, nor talons, nor a beak. It is flightless, and inanimate. Uniquely in the avian kingdom, it is disc-shaped, and made of clay.

In view of this neglect, the reissue of a classic text is most welcome. All due praise, then, to the Circular Ceramic Bird Press for its recent publication of The Clay Pigeon : Its Migration Patterns, Nesting Habits, And Terrible Attrition Rate Caused By Shooting, written by the wild man of ornithology, Walter Mad, originally issued in 1926, on the eve of the General Strike.

The new edition is a facsimile, down to the last detail, including those endpapers which caused such a fuss and were eventually to lead, by all sorts of weird and eerie twists and turns, to the Hindenburg disaster on 6 May 1937. Let it be clear, once and for all, that Walter Mad played no part in that dreadful event, and was nowhere near Naval Air Station Lakehurst in New Jersey at the time. Yes, yes, his brother Wilfred was there, and they were identical twins, and there is certain photographic evidence, and one or two sworn affidavits, and the compelling testimony of Flossie Pilbrow, the noted spirit medium who perished aboard the flame-engulfed airship and later sent telepathic messages from the beyond, but even when you add all these things up, and take into account eye-witness statements and the so-called “peevish bus conductor’s bombshell”, there remains scarcely a shred of evidence to connect Walter Mad with the disaster.

Better that we remember him for his excellent book on the clay pigeon, even if much of it is ludicrous twaddle that no proper ornithologist has ever taken seriously. But what do proper ornithologists know, eh? Most of them cannot tell a nightjar from a stonechat, especially in cases where both the nightjar and the stonechat have been modelled in clay by tiptop bird ceramicists.

God give me strength.

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