I wanna tell you a story
I have previously intimated to you, my cherubs, that one of the many, many things I abhor about the Lagan is the biblical swarm of seagulls that have descended on the city, and who plague our lives like locusts with huge wings, sharp beaks and bad attitudes.
Yes, yes, I know what you are going to say, what harm do they do? They're only birds, I hear you whine? They look pretty? They are no less than the harbinger of the Antichrist, my friends, the soul catchers of Beelzebub.
Let me explain. In my pleasant little home in the south of the city, oh some five score and twelve weeks ago (that's two years by the way, I was feeling poetic) I was ambling home from work, my mind a gentle pot pourri of plans for quiet debauchery. It was in this reverie of contemplation that I was startled by a nearby shriek.
Heaven forefend, some lady is clearly being assaulted by a never-do-well or child snatched from the loving and ample bosom of its frantic mother. I turned, intent on some daring do, to find that I was indeed the victim. Not of some thimble-rigger, or a violent and drunken buffoon intent on blood. Oh no, dear Reader, this was much worse.
This was a seagull.
It is difficult to describe the nature of a seagull attack to the uninitiated. First of all, they aren't even proper seagulls. They are, I am told on fine authority, herring gulls, and are a constant pest in industrial cities throughout the British Isles.
Herring gulls are about 50% bigger than your common garden variety MFI seagull. They are the pumped up behemoths, the bodybuilders of the seagull world, and they have a roid rage to match. They are naturally aggressive at the best of times.
Apparently my road and my street in August of 2001 were not the best of times.
I have always been told that many birds swoop occasionally, but their incredible senses of perception and direction mean that while they may dive within inches of your person, they will not strike you.
Well, my house is nowhere near the bloody sea, so forgive me if I was not convinced on the path-finding talents of these particular aviators. And lo, but my fears were confirmed as this particular swine of a bird struck my face, and tore a small lump of flesh from my cheek.
I heard another shriek, and it was my own.
I was unable to finish the expletive because my assailant had clearly decided that I was not only a threat, but that I was uncommonly tasty (to give the gull itâ€™s due, that IS a fairly accurate descriptionâ€¦). Now I watched it soar, ten, twenty, thirty feet above where I stood, a neat tight turn, and then, beak down, wings spread, the Angel of Death, down it came again.
I dived into a hedge and dodged certain death by a hair's breadth. By its third swoop I had managed to get my keys out, and was in my house, blood racing, head pumped with adrenaline. And there was something else. Something new.
I could taste it, bitter like blood in my mouth.
I had a burning hatred of seagulls.
Now as I have said, I had done nothing to antagonise them. My very presence had sent them spinning into a frenzy of murder and maiming. They had, quite literally, drawn blood. Blood that I'm fond of. Blood that in the best of all possible worlds would remain within me like the oil in a tin of tuna chucks.
I was a study of cold, murderous rage. but I know of these things. Surely it could not be illegal to get an air-rifle and do a little field practice? No-one would miss a few gulls, it's not like we're short or anything?
They heavy hand of the law, in the not inconsiderable shape of the Countryside and Wildlife Act conspired against me in my moment of need. It was illegal to cull seagulls, herring gulls, or indeed almost all wildlife without a certificate issued by the City Council.
You, Gentle Reader, will know already that I view Councils with a similar fondness and respect as I retain for seagulls. And the Devil protects his own. I will not bore you with the conversation, suffice to say that a prominent council figure took the side of the birds. yes, the Birds! Has a bird paid rates, I ask you?