I know it’s the silly season and that the newspapers have to fill up a lot of comment space to justify their existence and create an artificial dialogue with what little paying readership they have left, but this downpage piece hit a new low for me in yesterday’s Guardian:
To kill a squawking bird
If you want to read it in full, it’s here, but these are the salient points, made by a writer called Ariane Sherine, whose work in the newspaper I am not familiar with but who apparently writes for My Family, which is more successful than any sitcom I’ve ever written. Anyway … “For the past three weeks,” she begins. “I have been woken up every day at 5am by seagulls.” Ah, it’s a first-person confessional slice of life. “As I live in central London, this is a bit like being nuzzled awake by polar bears when you live in the Gobi desert.” No, it isn’t. “There is no reason whatsoever for the seagulls to be here, unless they’re the stupidest, most short-sighted seagulls ever and have mistaken the Regent’s Canal for the sea.”
She goes on. I read to the end, assuming she would at some stage, awake from her solipsistic Metropolitan stupor and address the issue of overfishing, which is one of the reasons seagulls now fly further inland to feed and breed. I thought this was well known, it’s been happening for years and is well documented, and it’s thus effectively our fault, but Ariane Sherine has her teeth into this now and will not let go. “And if they’re that daft, why could they not accidentally brain themselves on some windows, instead of disrupting my sleep at precisely the same time each morning, like some kind of insane RSPB-sponsored speaking clock?”
She doesn’t mind the sound of an “everyday garden bird,” just the squawk of the impertient seagull, who doesn’t realise that Ariane Sherine wants to go to sleep in Central London. She believes that their call translates as, “Where the hell is the sea?” In fact, it translates as, “Where is the fish?” They are incredibly intelligent birds, and know that inland is a lot safer than the coast too: more room, less predators. She correctly observes that the gulls now scavenge in our urban, inland rubbish, but that’s because their natural food supply has been pillaged, and also, we chuck out loads of really nice food because the supermarkets stamp it with a random date, oh, and because we are wasteful, horrible people. We help pigeons thrive in the same way, by dropping old bits of muffin all over the pavement as we walk along eating our air-filled lumps of doughy nothing. And then we complain about all the pigeons.
Wait a minute? None of this can be true, or else Ariane Sherine wouldn’t be entitled to hate seagulls for making what is their natural cry near her house in Central London, and the Guardian, a national newspaper of some repute, wouldn’t give her a column in which to do it. “How on earth can a bird get lost?” she squawks. “Shouldn’t its inbuilt evolutionary radar systems stop disorientation?” Yes, except it is not lost. It is searching for food, except without the aid of a handy Waitrose. They “prefer”, she claims, “to feast on dead Marks & Spencer fish heads than dip into the sea for a tasty live snack.” Yes, that is correct. You, Ariane Sherine, are correct. The gulls are antisocial idiots, we are blameless. And yes, ha ha, you should, as you threaten, get a gun and shoot them. That would be solve the problem. Although you’ll have to shoot all of them.
Let’s hope the Guardian don’t follow Murdoch’s lead and make us pay for their content in the future. They will be hard pushed to justify putting a coin in the meter for groundless, self-congratulatory filler like this.