Troy Rawhiti-Forbes: No pigeon poo, what's the phew?

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Trafalgar Square, London. Photo / Thinkstock
Trafalgar Square, London. Photo / Thinkstock

Yesterday I happened upon a tweet from a New Zealander who wondered how well London had been cleaned up for the Olympics and, specifically, whether Trafalgar Square's legendary pigeon poo remained an issue.

Being a first-timer at the Olympic Games and in London, I had no reference point that didn't exist in books, films, or television shows; my lasting image of the city is that of an alien spacecraft crashing through the tower housing Big Ben before plunging into the Thames.

I haven't checked yet, but the clock tower is probably fine.

A series of bylaws passed over the last decade have largely consigned Trafalgar Square's avian annoyance to history, and I saw more "don't feed the pigeons" signs than actual pigeons. Sadly, there is still plenty of waste to be found in this ancient city.

I visited the New Zealand High Commission to admire their impressive silver fern banner and to meet a staff member I had come to know via Twitter. Even though I didn't require any diplomatic aid, I was offered something just as valuable: an invitation to use the loo before I left.

There is either a staggering lack of free public toilets here, or there are plenty and not enough people willing to use them. Whichever it is, the result is the same. Bladders are emptied onto the pavement, and olfactory punishment ensues.

On hot or rainy days, the smell of sewage hangs in the air in a way I have only experienced in the worst-affected parts of Christchurch after the earthquakes. The smell brings back not only sad memories, but a cough that is hard to shake.

The pong of air pollution chases the city's buses like, well, a bad smell.

But let's put this into perspective. Avoiding the pubs and clubs on a busy night, and the main roads at pretty much any time, will ease a sensitive nose's burden. For its size, population, and age, London could be much worse.

London seems to have a hold on Kiwis who check in and soon struggle to imagine how they could ever want to leave. It is a beautiful, smart, progressive city with respect for its identity and its traditions. Coming from Auckland, a baby in comparison, I am awed by the maturity of this historic place, found in every brick and reflecting off every landmark.

A few silly buggers and their happy bladders can't wash that away.

- NZ Herald

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