the sky was full of blue today, when i finished work and stepped outside into the light. i squinted up at the brilliant sun.
“well hello there!” i found myself saying aloud.
it was a beautiful evening. from my watering eye, i saw scatterings of cloud – chewing gum white and clumped together, as if spat out by disillusioned counterculture demigods.
and the sky was teeming with birds. gulls, to be precise. gulls and terns. as i made my way to the bus station, a pleasant five minute stroll in the right weather, the birds seemed to fly with me.
black-backed gulls, many of them, i counted thirty one at one point, crying and circling overhead. were they seeking rain? no. now is the time, a gruelling time, as their young fledglings take their first flight.
i arrived at the bus station and watched, in equal parts awe and helplessness, as a young gull in its infant plumage stretched his wings and limbered up. with much flapping and crying, he made small flurried leaps into the air as he tried out his new wings.
i watched as the hapless young one made his way to the edge of the old Victorian rooftop, that had been his safe haven since his hatching, and take a leap of faith. i held my breath.
his anxious mother circled around him. he took flight with as much airborne grace as a mountain goat.
i watched as the young gull, in trainee flight feathers, spiralled and spilled uselessly to the ground. his mother screamed in worry and frustration as she watched her baby plummet onto the middle of a busy road. there was much territorial shitting on pretty much anything and anyone that she perceived to be a threat.
i watched, with my heart in my mouth, as cars slowed down and drove around the mouthy, yet vulnerable, young bird. i could hear the panic in his mother’s quickening cry. she flew in low, like a skilled jet-fighter pilot, defensively deploying missiles of shit and spew on cars, kids, anything and everything in her desperation and exasperation. i held my breath and closed my eyes as a large truck appeared at pace. i waited for that ear-piercing siren wail but…
i felt the draught of its passing and prised my eyes open only to see the young gull, with its mother, safely on the pavement by the bus station, where i stood with fellow spectators.
the mother nudged the young gull.
“let’s try that again, shall we?” she seemed to whisper, gently encouraging the young one to try again.
the young bird stretched his wings and made an ungainly sprint towards me. it was a comical gait, like an old man in morning grey dancing to a hip-hop tune at a wedding.
under its mother’s watchful eye, and the eyes of a small group of spectators – myself included, the young gull took flight again. we watched them fly together. the mother gull glided, effortlessly, down to land. wings up, she dropped in atop the bus shelter where i stood. the young one continued to circle and soar. his mother cried, a different cry, beckoning her boy to come in and land beside her.
it was marvellous to watch.
the young bespeckled gull came to his mother, but slid off the clear perspex roof of the bus shelter. epic fail.
he landed, like a feathered ball, on the pavement beside me.
i watched, as the mother swooped down, bombing my fellow passengers with slimey shit and spew. i sidled further into the bus shelter, for fear of being attacked, but continued to watch.
again, the young gull made a speculative attempt at take-off. i watched him take to the air and circle above me. this time it’s different. he seemed stronger, more confident.
two or three passengers applauded, another uttered something about buying a lottery ticket.*
we all continued to watch, almost like proud parents of a newly upright infant, the young gull – having found his wings – circle and soar with the gods.
just because he can.
(c) image & words: Kat McDonald 2015
*in Scottish folklore & superstition, it is deemed ‘lucky’ if a bird shits on you, or if you accidently step in shit.