Big conversations about killer seagulls and other matters

FROM this ledge at this moment I can see swirling seagulls causing bloody mayhem, a middle-aged couple harming themselves with a cheeky drink or two and a grey-bearded man apparently intent on bringing a political party to its knees.

Yes, it’s one of those pick-and-mix days.

Seagulls have long been a bit of a nuisance, but thanks to a bout of overheated reporting this summer, they are now public enemy number one.

A woman in Cornwall was attacked while walking her dog and a boy eating a sausage role had his finger injured by a swooping gull. Such incidents have led to a cry on the nation’s newsdesks of: “Get me a killer gull.”

In the days when nothing happened in the summer this time of year was known as the “silly season”. Stories which would normally not be considered worthy of newsprint or air time would be elevated for the want of anything else being available.

“Killer seagulls” fall into that category. All sense goes out of the window and everyone goes gull crazy. Even David Cameron has stepped into the great gull quandary, saying during a visit to Cornwall, where he likes to holiday, that we needed “a big conversation” about gulls.

Don’t you just love the way that man is ready with an important-sounding quote for every possible situation and scenario. I wonder what a big conversation about gulls would sound like. Will it be different in tenor to a small conversation about sparrows? Will the prime minister order a gull task force or will he perhaps send in the RAF armed with tiny gull-dispatching missiles?

Now I admit that gulls are a nuisance. I once saw one swoop and steal an un-licked ice-cream cornet from a woman’s hand. In Helston, meanwhile, Sue Atkinson was reportedly pounced on as she walked her dog. The attack left her bleeding and in shock, although not so disturbed that she couldn’t come up with an obliging quote for the newspapers: “It was like a scene from the film The Birds.”

Although in that case it was crows not seagulls. Perhaps if Alfred Hitchcock were still around today he would instead make a film called The Seagulls.

Apparently, gulls attack or make a nuisance of themselves at this time of the year as the birds have their young to defend. Also they often attack because of man’s behaviour, sitting and eating fish and chips within beak’s range, for instance. Man On Ledge loves alfresco fish and chips, but I guess you do have to admit that the harbour wall or wherever is shared territory.

People often have it in for birds. York is infested with Canada geese and their droppings at certain times of the year. But is a cull ever the answer?

There is a new report out. Where would we be without those? Report-less and less prone to anxiety, perhaps. Anyway, this one warns that middle class middle-aged people are most likely to be the ones drinking too much, especially if they are healthy, active, sociable and highly educated. I guess this isn’t surprising: people in that category are free to do as they wish, and that includes drinking to excess. Drinking too much for men is officially regarded as more than 21 units a week, which translates as nine pints. Man On Ledge probably drinks that much beer in an average month, although to be strictly accurate there is some wine in there too.

The study was based on responses to a survey by a body called the English Longitudinal Study of Aging. Now there’s a name to love. I am worried? At present finances are too tight for excess, so no I am not. But it is possible to see the dangers here.

Finally, Jeremy Corbyn, a man regarded in some quarters as little better than a swooping gull. Only the left-wing MP is not filching fish and chips. He wants to grab the Labour leadership, with one poll suggesting he might be on course to win.

This has led to plenty of wrangling and the sort of internecine wrestling that occurs when a party is on the skids. There was even a silly suggestion from the Daily Telegraph that its readers should join the Labour Party and vote for Mr Corbyn as a way of ensuring that Labour elected a leader who would damage the party.

I don’t think he will win and a very left-wing leader wouldn’t do Labour much good at the polls next time round. But at least Mr Corbyn has clear-cut beliefs and none of the Tory-aping manner of other candidates.

Incidentally, in conversation the other night one of our Airbnb guests expressed his admiration for David Cameron and said he just felt safer with him in charge. He wondered if I agreed. A polite silence ensued.


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