The cost of feeding the birds has gone up a lot. It only cost Mary Poppins tuppence a bag, but in Trafalgar Square today it’ll cost you £500, according to an aggressively-worded sign that confronted me as I left the National Gallery the other day.
Now I’m sure there are sensible, practical reasons for this rule. I’m sure that the pigeons spread all kinds of terrible diseases, and that the government had to spend millions of pounds cleaning all the shit off Nelson’s hat. But the thing is, I’m not a very sensible, practical person. I prefer the pigeon-carpeted Trafalgar Square of my childhood to the sanitised urban space I see now. As a child I used to love chasing the pigeons and watching them flutter up into the sky, and standing in the square as an adult I wished I could have seen a child running around doing the same thing.
It made me wonder whether this is the way London is going in general. More rules and regulations, more safety and cleanliness, but in each apparently sensible regulation a steady chipping away at the soul of the city. Can a city be ruined by too much sense? I know that when I lived in New York, a lot of people there were nostalgic for the old city, dirtier and more dangerous, but somehow more alive.
So what do you think? Would you prefer to live in a clean, well-regulated city? Or one with more beauty and more surprises, but also more shit and disease?