Sunday, 16 October 2016

Seagull - The Final Act Of Defiance

A couple of years ago I got up one morning to find a huge (and I mean, huge - it was the size of a football) baby seagull tottering about in our garden.  As I opened the back door it stopped, stared at me defiantly, then carried on making its precarious way across the decking.  I realised it must have slid down our roof, from the nest that we suspected had been covertly constructed by its mum and dad earlier that year.
 
The parents were conspicuous in their absence. Perhaps this big fat feathered ball had been a big disappointment to them. Maybe they'd been expecting a cute little bundle that would be the envy of their seagull neighbours. Instead, to their horror, they had spawned this monstrosity that never slept, took up half the nest every night and screeched loudly at any other wildlife that ventured near their rooftop abode.
 
Much as I dislike the seagull population in general (living as we do, just off Costa del Gull in Blackpool) I was slightly worried about this baby's ability to survive in a garden brimming with potential disaster: wandering cats, rough grandchildren, the notorious North West gales and a husband who had been conducting a vociferous campaign against these 'flying vermin' since we'd arrived in Blackpool in 1976, I didn't relish the thought of seeing Baby Cyril (as we Christened him) flying past my window, not through his own efforts but from a particularly harsh gust of wind, the actions of an over enthusiastic grandchild, or on the end of a size nine boot.
 
We were soon to discover that these particular worries were completely unfounded.  As my husband wandered into the garden to hang out the washing, one eye warily on Cyril, who, obviously sensing danger, was now cowering the other side of a low wall, there was a loud screech and a huge gull swooped down from the roof and dive bombed Dave's head. Ducking, Dave frantically waved his arms in the air and swore loudly. I stayed behind the window and tried to stifle my laughter. As he straightened up there was another almighty screech and a second gull swooped from the opposite direction, skilfully crossing the path of his mate and skimming the top of Dave's head. It seemed, at some cost to Dave's scalp, Cyril's parents had had a guilty change of heart.
 
Admitting defeat, the husband and the washing basket returned to the safety of the kitchen. Twice more that morning Dave attempted the same task. Each time he returned with the unhung washing, swearing and rubbing at his head. Eventually, after a rapid risk assessment, and clad in protective hat and gloves, I grabbed the washing basket, slowly opened the back door and crept across the patio. Cyril eyed me with disdain and flopped back casually on the grass.
 
Furtively glancing up at the roof I hung the first item of washing. Nothing. I hung the second. Not a screech, nor a flapping of wings. Triumphantly, I returned to the kitchen, mission completed.  We decided the swooping gulls had changed their minds. Cyril was to be abandoned after all, mum and dad would return to their pre-baby days and live happily ever after.
 
As dusk approached Dave ventured out to bring in the washing. Frantic screeching signalled a return of the earlier Battle of Britain, seagull style.  An executive decision is made. The washing will remain on the line until morning, by which time a whole new strategy will be have been hatched (no pun intended).
 
The next few days were a battle of wits: man versus bird. Cyril seemed to gain confidence with each attack by his doting and protective parents. They brought food and deposited it in that fat, greedy, ever open mouth, they swooped and screeched as Dave left the safety of the house, but pointedly ignored all other humans. Rio and I sat in the summerhouse concocting reasons to phone granddad and get to him to cross the garden. For entertainment, this was better than any episode of 'You've been Framed.'
 
Once, Dave appeared swinging a cricket bat above his head, which had I not been aware of my husband's dire cricketing record would have been confiscated in the name of cruelty to animals.  I could swear the seagulls were laughing that day as they flew within centimetres of the flailing bat before doing a swift U-turn and returning to their rooftop home . Cyril looked on from his adopted perch on the summerhouse decking and made a few desperate attempts to fly off it, flapping his wings furiously before plummeting to the ground and scrabbling his way back up the steps to try again, like a young swimmer learning to dive.  Dave had been expressively forbidden to touch Cyril. I feared I was becoming quite attached to the bird's blundering baby qualities.
 
One morning, about a week after his first sighting, I looked outside as I boiled the kettle. There was no sign of Cyril, no gaping beak, no pathetic flapping wings, no weak warblings. The washing was hanging on the line from the night before, where we'd left it. I tiptoed into the garden, casting my eyes around for the big fluffy ball I'd become quite fond of.
 
On the lawn, a few soft, tawny feathers. I wiped away a tear, and began to gather up the washing. Halfway down the front of Dave's best shirt was the large, unmistakeable deposit from a seagull that had obviously over indulged in chips and bread, with ice cream for dessert.  I couldn't help grinning.
 
The final act of defiance. Seagulls 1, Dave 0.

The Greedy Gull - Red Snapper Photography

Seagull by Brian McCabe

We are the dawn marauders.
We prey on pizza. We kill kebabs.
We mug thrushes for bread crusts
with a snap of our big bent beaks.
We drum the worms from the ground
with the stamp of our wide webbed feet.
We spread out, cover the area -
like cops looking for the body
of a murdered fish-supper.
Here we go with our hooligan yells
loud with gluttony, sharp with starvation.
Here we go bungee-jumping on the wind,
charging from the cold sea of our birth.
This is invasion. This is occupation.
Our flags are black, white and grey.
Our wing-stripes are our rank.
No sun can match the brazen
colour of our mad yellow eyes.
We are the seagulls.
We are the people.
 
Thanks for reading, Jill
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