A New Year Tanager

Traditionally, the tanager is the new year bird of Hooting Yard. A small to medium sized member of the bird family Thraupidae, the tanager picks insects off branches, often has a rather dull song, and lives in a cup nest on a tree branch. Sometimes the cup can be almost globular, but that’s a tanager for you. Because it is a tropical bird, flocks of tanagers are incredibly rare in the sky around Haemoglobin Towers, so the majority of Hooting Yard’s new year tanager birds are made of paper or cardboard. Well, all of them. The making of paper or cardboard birds, often very elaborate ones, but sometimes really quite shoddy and slapdash, has long been found to be a splendid way of keeping the tinies of Pang Hill Orphanage busy during the winter nights, when other, more fortunate children are fast asleep. Throughout the month of December, the orphanage attic, open to the freezing and black night sky, rings out with the jolly cries of infants competing with each other to craft the very best paper or cardboard tanager using shredded newspaper or crumpled cartons or torn-up Popsie The Pig annuals donated by a foundlings’ charity. These latter are eagerly grasped by the larger and more lumbering orphans, for the pretty coloured pictures of Popsie The Pig and her pals make for splendid plumage on the paper birds. On New Year’s Eve, each tiny collapses with exhaustion on the floor of the attic, and a trio of worthies roams among their fallen little bodies, destroying all but one of the paper or cardboard tanagers with hammers and slicers. The sole surviving paper bird is carried off for the Hooting Yard festivities that begin at dawn on New Year’s Day, by which time the orphans have been bundled downstairs and locked into the filthy and infested canteen for their breakfast of cauliflower water and radishes.

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