Thursday, March 06, 2008

Thoughts on ex-seagulls

The Telegraph .... I hate have to confess so publicly that I read that rag so regularly, but truly, it's informative. Today, for instance, it had this ripping yarn about how an "Immigrant was cooking swan surrounded by the bodies of slaughtered birds."

No pun, no alliteration, no baby bump -- this is a sign of serious outrage in the Tory Press. Peruse at leisure.

Here's me, having another lateral moment, thinking "where did I read that one before?" and dashing to the bookshelf to dig out Sam Selvon's excellent and hilarious 1956 novel The Lonely Londoners. In one of the episodes a West Indian character named Cap, at a bit of a low point and fantasising in a famished frenzy about the pleasures of Chinese and Indian food, has a great idea inspired by the seagulls circling the roof of his digs.

I love this passage:
These seagulls that come up from the old Thames when things too hard for them by the sea, you could never tell where you will see them. Sometimes they join the pigeons in Trafalgar Square, and it have some of them does hang out by the Odeon in Marble Arch.
Anyway, instead of imagining seagulls having a great night out at the flicks, Cap decides to hunt them for food. After a bit of trial and error -- including somehow enticing a seagull into his room -- he develops a successful trapping system:
Now the bird start to fly round and round the room, making circle with the electric light in the centre.

But hunger have Cap desperate now and he making some wild grab that almost catching the bird, but the bird making some kind of fancy swerve every time and getting away.

Cap get so vex that he take a blanket off the bed, and he wait until the seagull coming around in the circle, and he throw the blanket. He bring the bird down, tangle up in the blanket, and he throw himself on the blanket and hold down the bird.

In the two weeks that Cap stay in that top room, he lessen the seagull population in London evening after evening. Not to arouse suspicion he used to put the feathers in a paper bag and when he go out in the night, throw it in a garden or a public rubbish bin.

The menu had him looking well, he eat seagull in all manner and fashion. He recover his strength, and when the landlord tell him that he had to leave, Cap cast a sorrowful glance upwards when he was leaving Dawson Place.

The next place that he went to live, he get a top room again when he ask for it, but seagulls never come on that ledge, though Cap used to put bread out every day.

Always remember: a little bit of literary knowledge goes a long way. And I'll get my tea now. Toodlepip.


Kris McCracken said...

I enjoyed that very much.

I think that I'm going to have to seek out that book now!

The Wife said...

Hi Kris,

Thanks for your comment. Nice to hear that once in a while one comes up with something inspiring. And yes: Selvon's book is absolutely worth reading.

All best,