Last month I was fortunate enough to interview 90-year-old Angela Allen for the Telegraph Magazine. Allen was a script supervisor, or continuity girl as it was originally called, for a host of great films including The Third Man. I was asking her specifically about her experiences on The African Queen, which she filmed in the Congo jungle with Bogart, Hepburn and John Huston.
At the end of an enjoyable interview, I needed to ask one last question. About parakeets.
“Oh don’t started me on the parrots,” she sighed. “Everybody says the London parakeets escaped from the set of The African Queen but there were no birds in the film and we didn’t bring any animals back to England, so I’m bored of hearing that one. I don’t know where that rumour came from but I didn’t see a parrot in London or Africa. I was once filming in Rome with Zeffirelli and somebody started blaming The African Queen for the parrots they now have in Italy.”
So there you go. However, if you do want to know more about the history of London’s parakeets, a new book has all the answers. The Parakeeting of London is the latest book from Paradise Road, the London independent publishers who did my Battersea Power Station book. It’s fantastic.
Written by “gonzo ornithologist” Nick Hunt, the book looks for the earliest reported sightings in London and explores the many urban myths surrounding their history. It also looks at the way the parakeets live, travel and feed and the impact they have on other wildlife. And the book explores the nature of the relationship that Londoners have developed with this “invasive species”, asking some pertinent questions about the concept of native and immigrant species that ties into wider, non bird-related, socio-political questions.
You can get The Parakeeting Of London from the Paradise Road website.