Country diary: the cackling, chip-stealing lords of misrule

Gulls, like the people promenading or sitting on the beach here in Brighton, appear more relaxed under an evening sky than at high noon. Earlier today, small factions of herring gulls were in a mugging mood, mobbing a woman and her child so brutally that they dropped their food and fled, stealing a sandwich bite from out of a man’s mouth.

The anarchy of gulls is impressive. Their direct actions are sudden and intuitively coordinated. They have their own way of living with us that can feel very uncomfortable to those who think nature is benignly self-governing, birds are decorous and the seaside exists for entertainment. When the British population of the European herring gull, Larus argentatus, crashed, to show their appreciation they came to live with us. In his 1958 essay, Beat Zen, Square Zen and Zen, Alan Watts quotes the Taoist Chuang-tzu: “Those who would have good government without its correlative misrule … do not understand the principles of the universe.” Gulls are the cackling, car-crapping, collectively scary, chip-stealing spirits of misrule.

Lockdown must have been hell for them too: suddenly no people, no chips. As cafes and takeaways reopen, and gulls emerge from a hungry time raising young, adults and juveniles take what they can from wherever they can. One develops a sideways scooping technique for spilt ice-cream; another carries a McDonald’s bag into the air to shake out crumbs; another drags a polystyrene kebab tray like a trophy.

And then there are the spectacular mob frenzies that overpower a space so that the most dominant can bolt down lumps of bread the size of their heads; the less powerful but more agile pluck morsels from midair and the others have to pick at debris with forensic intensity. They steal from us and then from each other; all property is theft, all theft is existential.

The evening calms them. They move between the sitters, ever watchful but with looser wingbeats and an almost languid poise in the air between the shingle and the ruin of the old pier. They proclaim their way was the right way all along and human behaviour is only now catching up with them. The zeitgeist is gull. Gulls and the people are the front and back of this place.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Enter Your Information Below To Receive Free Trading Ideas, Latest News, And Articles.

Please Enter Your Email Address:

Your information is secure and your privacy is protected. By opting in you agree to receive emails from us and our affiliates. Remember that you can opt-out any time, we hate spam too!


Fire and pestilence, flood and wind, the personal is political: Trump must go | Robert Reich

My wife and I have been warned we may need to evacuate our cabin in the hills north of San Francisco, because of fires...

Mountain butterflies ‘will have to be relocated as habitats get too hot’

The diversity and resilience of cold-loving butterfly species is threatened by global heating which will destroy genetically unique populations, according to a study. Native mountain-dwelling...

Show with the flow: elevation maps reveal world rivers

These maps of rivers around the world were created byEsri UK, a mapping and spatial analytics company, from detailed elevation data collected using remote...

Country diary: catch these twinkling stars before their lights go out

In the hedgerows the blackthorn is shooting sprays of small white blossom upwards, thus signalling the end of the winter. If this is so,...

Finding sanctuary in photographing nature during lockdown

Cutting short our holiday to Cuba as Covid-19 took off, it was an eerie feeling transferring through an emptying Paris Charles de Gaulle...