We have two seagulls, Peter and Mrs Peter; they’ve been together awhile.
I don’t know if they’re in love, but they work together to get things done.
They live on our roof and have lived here longer than we have.
This is their house, which they defend daily from other seagulls and rooks.
And we are regarded as staff. It’s like Upstairs, Downstairs. They live upstairs, we live downstairs – and provide for them.
Every year, their coming together produces three offspring. They grow up on the roof, without any nesting.
While they are growing, Peter and Mrs Peter are very insistent about food. There are no days off for the staff, and they will bang on the windows with their beaks if service is slow.
I write this with Peter looking into my office, from his wall place.
He’s disappointed with me.
We sometimes think Mrs Peter should leave Peter. He can be very aggressive over food; and occasionally attacks her neck with his beak.
He struggles to share.
But they work together to control the skies over their roof; particularly when there are young around.
Not everyone likes seagulls. Like humans, they are ruthless scavengers for food.
And they are very nervous, and therefore aggressive, when they have young to protect.
We have recently had stories in the press of a seagull picking up a chihuahua – and not returning it.
Or of seagulls stopping people leaving their house.
Perhaps even more tragically, a man was sun bathing naked in his garden recently when a seagull flew down and removed one of his testicles. Did they think it was an egg?
Whatever, it’s a painful story and not a good way to make friends.
Though Peter and Mrs Peter are never aggressive towards us. And when children come to stay, they come down and say hello – happy to be pleasant to the staff’s offspring for a while.
It’s what Lords and Ladies of the manor do.
‘One does one’s best for the servants.’
Sometimes Peter comes inside the kitchen, if the door is left open. I suppose its good to see how the staff live.
The other day, he continued on into the house while we were in the garden. We looked across to front room patio windows, and saw him looking out at us from inside, standing by the piano.
Roles nicely reversed.
And they are big, seagulls.
‘They are so big!’ say people when they see them close up.
And, ‘Aren’t they called herring gulls, technically? I read that somewhere.’ (Yes, they are.)
They’re not very good parents beyond the early days of survival. Most of their offspring are killed by foxes. They come down off the roof too early, before they can fly properly, and can’t get back to safety.
But some survive, and make marriages for themselves. Seagulls stay together, through thick and thin.
I’m not saying it’s right; because sometime the behaviour is pretty thin. But, let’s be honest, they couldn’t give a hoot about the opinions of staff.
They were here before us and we know our place.
Staff should always know their place.