This is Brighton, and from the top of my tower on the hill, the only
birds I can hear are the gulls.
I wouldn’t call it singing. At least not in the tuneful sense of the word.
There’s a texture that’s intriguing, but it’s not exactly a gentle
lullaby, or a tender serenade, or even a barbershop quartet.
It’s a shrieking mess of violence, stress and panic. It’s a gang of louts on a friday night.
There’s a joy in there.
Sometimes I even enjoy it.
It’s the sound of home.
A torrent of screams and yells and howls and general bolsh.
The harmonies are fractured and broken. The polyphony a torrent of
cascading and barely linked rhythms.
Everything over everything else. Nothing pretty and structured. Just howls.
It always surprises me how many different voices they seem to have.
Some of them seem to be tittering, while others wail, and another
pair, on the roof oppostie, appear to be doing the yells of ‘Come on,
come on’ from that Gary Glitter song.
Not exactly harmonious.
But it’s the sound of home. Isn’t it?
Well. It is for me.
Whenever my mother calls me on the mobile, and I’m out and about (more
often than not, when she calls) she notices the sound straight away.
Comments on it.
I barely noticed it.
But even from my quiet and poorly air conditioned office (lunch break,
honest) I can here the occasional sing song calling, clearer than the
hubbub of the street.
Even when they drive me mad as I hunt for sleep, I wonder at the
richness of the fabric of sound they weave all around my attic room.
In the distance they are almost tuneful, even if close up it’s that
To let me know they are there. Hunting and playing and swooping and
general dossing about.
When we think of bird song, we’re much more likely to think about the
dawn chorus of the countryside. More chirups and actual songs than the
cavalcade of the seagulls.
But it’s more about the way they play together. The thickness of the
sound. That’s what I like about it.
Nature, taking the time to layer different sounds on top of each other.
It’s certainly not for my benefit, but there it is anyway. A
serendipitous musical piece, just for me.
Why do they do it?
Probably the usual: attracting a mate, marking out territory, having
competitions, or just saying ‘I’m here, I’m a bird, get used to it.’
Or something like that.
The why is not what makes me gay (in the old fashioned sense; mostly).
It’s the song.
Reminds me that I’m here. Where I am, surrounded by life. Of all descriptions.
Wonders and strangeness are all around.
And sometimes they sing to you.
And that’s (coincidentally) also why I fall in love.
Illustration by Anna-Kaisa.