Pigeon English


Stephen Kelman

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Pigeon English can help.
Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Bloomsbury edition of Pigeon English published in 2011.
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March Quotes

I live in Copenhagen House. My flat is on floor 9 out of 14. It's not even hutious. I can look from the window now and my belly doesn't even turn over.

I love going in the lift, it's brutal, especially when you're the only one in there. Then you could be a spirit or a spy. You even forget the pissy smell because you're going so fast.

It's proper windy at the bottom like a whirlpool. If you stand at the bottom where the tower meets the ground and put your arms out, you can pretend like you're a bird. You can feel the wind try to pick you up, it's nearly like flying.

Related Characters: Harrison Opoku (Harri) (speaker)
Related Symbols: Pigeons
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:

The flowers on the coffin said Son and Forever. But it felt like Forever was already finished. It felt like somebody took it away when they killed the dead boy. It's not supposed to happen. Children aren't supposed to die, only old people. It even made me worried for if I was next. I spat out the rest of my Atomic Apple Hubba Bubba for if I swallowed it by mistake and my guts all got stuck together.

Related Characters: Harrison Opoku (Harri) (speaker), The Dead Boy
Page Number: 37
Explanation and Analysis:

We're proper detectives now. It's a personal mission. The dead boy even told the rogues to leave me alone one time when they were hooting me for wearing ankle-freezers (that's when the legs of your trousers are too short). I didn't even ask him, he just helped me for no reason. Wanted him to be my friend after that but he got killed before it came true. That's why I have to help him now, he was my friend even if he didn't know about it. He was my first friend who got killed and it hurts too much to forget.

Related Characters: Harrison Opoku (Harri) (speaker), The Dead Boy
Page Number: 47-48
Explanation and Analysis:
April Quotes

Altaf is very quiet. Nobody really knows him. You're not supposed to talk to Somalis because they're pirates. Everybody agrees. If you talk to them you might give away a clue to where you keep your treasure and the next

thing you know, your wife has been strangled alive and they're throwing you to the sharks. Me and Altaf don't have to go to RE. Mamma doesn't want me to hear about the false gods, she says it's a waste of time, and Altaf's mamma thinks the same thing.

Related Characters: Harrison Opoku (Harri) (speaker), Mamma, Altaf
Page Number: 52
Explanation and Analysis:

Some rules I have learned from my new school:

No running on the stairs.

No singing in class.

Always put your hand up before you ask a question.

Don't swallow the gum or it will get stuck in your guts and you'll die.

Jumping in the puddle means you're a retard (I don't even agree with this one).

Going around the puddle means you're a girl.

The last one in close the door.

The first one to answer the question loves the teacher.

If a girl looks at you three times in a row it means she loves you.

If you look at her back you love her.

He who smelt it dealt it.

He who denied it supplied it.

He who sensed it dispensed it.

He who knew it blew it.

He who noted it floated it.

He who declared it aired it.

He who spoke it broke it.

He who exposed it composed it.

He who blamed it flamed it.

(All these are just for farts.)

If you look at the back of a mirror you'll see the devil.

Don't eat the soup. The dinner ladies pissed in it.

Don't lend Ross Kelly your pen. He picks his arse klinkers with it.

Keep to the left (everywhere). The right is out of bounds.

The library stairs are safe.

If he wears a pinky ring he's a gay (a pinky ring is a ring on your little finger).

If she wears a bracelet on her ankle she's a lesbian (shags it up with other ladies).

Related Characters: Harrison Opoku (Harri) (speaker)
Page Number: 63-64
Explanation and Analysis:

In football nobody used to pass to me. I thought it meant they hated me. Then I found out it's because I used the wrong command. Instead of saying pass to me you have to say man on. Apart from that the rules are the same as where I used to live. Vilis still doesn't pass to me but I don't care. Where he comes from (Latvia) they burn black people into tar and make roads out of them. Everybody agrees.

Related Characters: Harrison Opoku (Harri) (speaker), Vilis
Page Number: 73-74
Explanation and Analysis:

Auntie Sonia burned her fingers to get the fingerprints off. Now she has no fingerprints at all. It's so if the police catch her they can't send her away. Your fingerprints tell them who you are. If you have no fingerprints, you can't be

anybody. Then they don't know where you belong so they can't send you back. Then they have to let you stay.

Related Characters: Harrison Opoku (Harri) (speaker), Auntie Sonia
Related Symbols: Fingerprints
Page Number: 93
Explanation and Analysis:

Auntie Sonia hasn't even done anything bad. She's never killed anybody or stolen anything. She just likes to go to different places. She likes to see the different things there. Some of the countries won't let you in if you're black. You have to sneak in. When you're in you just act like everybody else. Auntie Sonia only does the same things as them. She goes to work and shopping. She eats her dinner and goes to the park.

Related Characters: Harrison Opoku (Harri) (speaker), Auntie Sonia
Related Symbols: Fingerprints
Page Number: 93-94
Explanation and Analysis:
May Quotes

I just wanted to get your attention, Harri, get you out of another mess. I'm trying to help you while I still can, I'm trying my best but there's only so much I can do from here […] Home will always find you if you walk true and taller than those weeds. You can be a tree, you can be as big as you want to be.

Related Characters: Harrison Opoku (Harri)
Related Symbols: Pigeons
Page Number: 119
Explanation and Analysis:

In England nobody helps you if you fall over. They can't tell if you're serious or if it's just a trick. It's too hard to know what's real.

Related Characters: Harrison Opoku (Harri) (speaker), Mr. Frimpong
Page Number: 130
Explanation and Analysis:


Kids vs Teachers

Northwell Manor High vs Leabridge High

Dell Farm Crew vs Lewsey Hill Crew

Emos vs Sunshine

Turkey vs Russia

Arsenal vs Chelsea

Black vs White

Police vs Kids

God vs Allah

Chicken Joe's vs KFC

Cats vs Dogs

Aliens vs Predators

Related Characters: Harrison Opoku (Harri) (speaker)
Page Number: 133
Explanation and Analysis:
June Quotes

Signs of guilt include:

Ants in your pant

Talking too fast

Always looking around you like you've lost something

Smoking too much

Crying too much


Biting your fingers


Sudden bouts of violence

Uncontrolled gas (farting a lot)

Religious hysteria

Related Characters: Harrison Opoku (Harri) (speaker), Dean
Page Number: 155-156
Explanation and Analysis:

I wonder what Heaven is really like. Is it different for kids than for grown-ups. Like would there still be somebody there telling him to come in

from playing football when it got too dark. The dead boy could do the most tricks, he could flick the ball up with his heel and keep it up for donkey hours with both feet. He always aimed his shots for the corners like you're supposed

to and he was even good at heading. He was good at everything. I wonder if there's dogs like Asbo who steal your ball. That would be funny. I hope in Heaven the animals can all talk, then they can tell you when they're happy so

you don't have to guess. You can usually tell from the eyes but it only works on bigger animals, not pigeons or flies. Their eyes only look sad.

Related Characters: Harrison Opoku (Harri) (speaker), The Dead Boy
Related Symbols: Pigeons, Heaven
Page Number: 169
Explanation and Analysis:

If Agnes dies I'll just swap places with her. She can have my life. I'll give it to her and I'll die instead. I wouldn't mind because I've already lived for a long time. Agnes has only lived for one year and some. I hope God lets me. I don't

mind going to Heaven early. If he wants me to swap places, I will. I just hope I can try Haribo Horror Mix first (they're my favourite of all the Haribo styles. The sweets are all crazy shapes, like bats and spiders and ghosts. Mamma says it's against God but she just worries too much).

Related Characters: Harrison Opoku (Harri) (speaker), Agnes
Related Symbols: Pigeons, Heaven
Page Number: 171
Explanation and Analysis:

I love it when you get a good surprise. Like the cement being there just waiting for us to write in it or like when you think somebody will be rubbish at something and then you find out they're actually brilliant at it. It was the same with Manik: nobody suspected him to be such a good goalie because he's so fat, but actually Manik's a brilliant goalie. It's impossible to score against him. Nothing ever gets past him […] I didn't think Dean would be such a good climber because he has orange hair. I just didn't suspect it. But actually he's a brilliant climber.

Related Characters: Harrison Opoku (Harri) (speaker), Lydia, Dean, Manik
Page Number: 211
Explanation and Analysis:
July Quotes

Fingerprints are just for feeling with and to help you hold onto things when they're wet. They don't really mean anything. If you didn't have fingerprints you could be anyone you wanted.

Related Characters: Harrison Opoku (Harri) (speaker), Auntie Sonia
Related Symbols: Fingerprints
Page Number: 219
Explanation and Analysis:

I ran fast. I ran down the hill and through the tunnel. I shouted:

Me: 'Poppy I love you!'

It made a mighty echo. Nobody else heard it.

I ran past the real church. I ran past the cross.

I ran past the Jubilee.

I ran past the CCTV camera. I let it snap me for luck.

I ran past the other pigeons. I pretended they called hello to me.

Me: 'Pigeons I love you!'

It didn't even feel stupid, it felt brilliant. I ran past the playground and the dead climbing frame. I was running superfast. I was going faster than I've ever gone, my feet were just a blur. Nobody could ever catch me, I was going

to break the world record.

Related Characters: Harrison Opoku (Harri) (speaker), Poppy Morgan
Related Symbols: Pigeons
Page Number: 261
Explanation and Analysis:

Pigeon: 'Don't worry, you'll be going home soon. When it's time to go I'll show you the way.'

Me: 'Can't I stay here?'

Pigeon: 'It's not up to me. You've been called home.'

Me: 'It hurts. Do you work for God?'

Pigeon: 'I'm sorry if it hurts. It won't be long now.'

Me: 'I like your feet. They're nice and scratchy. I like all your colours.'

Pigeon: 'Thank you. I like you too, I always did. There's nothing to be scared of.'

Related Characters: Harrison Opoku (Harri) (speaker)
Related Symbols: Pigeons, Heaven
Page Number: 263
Explanation and Analysis:

You could see the blood. It was darker than you thought. It just felt too crazy, I couldn't keep my eyes open. I just wanted to remember, if I could remember it would be alright. Agnes's tiny fat fingers and face. I couldn't see it anymore. All babies look the same.

Related Characters: Harrison Opoku (Harri) (speaker), Agnes
Page Number: 263
Explanation and Analysis:
No matches.