Monday, October 22, 2007

Midnight Seagulls

I moved house a couple of months ago. I love the new house and the area it's in. It's quieter to start with, not being very near any main roads and nowhere near the town. But there is one noise that I've been missing. Seagulls.

I grew up in Cornwall where seagulls - particularly the large Herring Gulls - are as common as grass. That's grass as in lawns, not grass as in Cannabis. Mind you, that was quite common too, now I think about it. That's the thing about rural areas. You see a police officer about once a year. A lot of my friends 'grew tomatoes' in growbags.

Even though I didn't always live near the sea, seagulls were a constant reminder that my home county is uniquely bordered on three sides by the sea and less than 50 miles wide at its broadest part. Consequently, the cries of seagulls were part of the tapestry of my childhood. A minute didn't go by without hearing their mournful wails and witchy cackles ... which is why their absence is so noticeable now.

Even in London, where I work, there are gulls. They squat on the Thames, steal food from tourists on the Victoria Embankment and seem to be muscling in on the pigeons' turf. It's like a kind of avian West Side Story but without all the dancing. Apparently, the migration of gulls into towns and cities is because tall buildings mimic their natural clifftop nesting sites. Plus the proliferation of food waste encourages population growth, as it has for rats and urban foxes in recent years.

Where I lived before, I was closer to the Thames and the gulls have come so far up the Thames Estuary these days that they have displaced populations of wild ducks and geese in some areas. But one place that they have made their own is the local recycling centre, humorously named by the local authority as High Heavens. Lying in my bed in the old house, I could hear the seagulls screaming at midnight as the refuse people worked tirelessly on the landfill and recycling work. It may have been the middle of the night, but the sound was strangely comforting and reminded me of my childhood. But here I'm too far away and the gulls are noticeably absent from the night. We have owls instead. Cute but not the same.

Strange how you miss the oddest things.


Me said...

I love that first pic - is it one of yours?

Stevyn Colgan said...

Yes ... I have a worryingly - some would say disturbingly - large collection of seagull photos. Both pics are mine and I have many more. Is that obsessional?

Me said...

Yes - but excellent self awareness!