In the middle of last week I had to walk into town to pick up my car from the garage. Along the way, I marvelled at the swallows swooping under the bridge and swifts screeching around the narrow streets at little more than head height. In amongst all this small bird action were the ever present gulls - looming from the rooftops, scavenging around waste bins and screaming from the skies. They are ridiculously fearless, intimidatingly huge, but largely harmless. In fact, until last week I would've said that they are totally harmless.
Heading down the narrow lane leading to the garage, I became aware of a large gull swooping back and forth a few feet above my head, all the while making that unsettling squealing noise. There were other gulls around and I assumed the noises were aimed at them. This one gull didn't seem to fly far from my vicinity though. Was I imagining that its angry screams were directed at me? I was pleased to arrive at the garage where I stepped inside and quickly forgot the whole brief episode.
After chatting for a while with the mechanics at the garage, they returned my key and told where they'd left my car. It's a small family run concern with very little space, so cars are routinely left in nearby streets and cul-de-sacs until collection. I'd been in the garage for around ten minutes and left distractedly fiddling with my key-ring. Instantly the gull swooped low over my head, screaming as it went. I was freaked out - it'd been waiting for me. I had a few hundred yards to cover before reaching my car and walked quickly, trying to stay close to an overhanging wall, but the screeching gull was never more than a few feet away from my head, ignoring all other pedestrians. I saw my car up ahead and broke into a slightly panicky jog to reach it, but the Hitchcockian swooping and screeching continued right up until the very moment I went to open the door, when the gull made its closest pass, directly over my right shoulder, unleashing a hefty dropping that missed me by about two inches, splatting down the side of the car and onto the pavement.
I was genuinely shaken up by the whole episode. Perhaps while walking down the lane, I'd unknowingly passed close to some fledglings and the gull was merely fulfilling its parental duties in protecting its offspring. I don't understand why it followed me for so long though - the car was a quarter of a mile from our first encounter. Plus it appeared to wait for me while I was in the garage - what's all that about? And then there was the parting gift that so narrowly missed me.
Unsurprisingly, Number One Cup's 'Divebomb' became an earworm for the next few days.
Number One Cup - Divebomb
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