|(Previously posted at kevinwelch.com/journals)
The gulls here make all kinds of different sounds. They chatter and quack and whine and peep and caw like crows. They are constantly in the sky above this balcony and across the quilted blanket of rooftops draping a half-mile down to the sea. You hear them up close and just over there and then beyond and then in concentric layers all the way out to where their songs intermingle with the far off murmur of sirens and motors grinding and whistling on the highway that runs along the beaches, and then back up close, another sound, and it could be the barking of dogs down below somewhere in the ancient narrow lanes or someone’s laughter from a yellow window or a doorway in the shadows just below. It’s restless and ceaseless.
It’s all rooftops from this balcony three stories over the lane and facing the sea, and halfway to the sea the onion domes and the spires of the Pavilion, the famous palace of Brighton, rise above the roofs and catch the angled sun beneath the bluest sky I ever saw in England. Across the next lane over, on the roof of the group of flats there, on one of a dozen slender orange chimneys a gull sits up and scratches her head like a dog would, and then settles as if she will maybe lay an egg on top of the chimney cap. And through an open window just below I see a small girl in a little white tank top laying on her bed by the window watching television, a little dark-skinned dark-haired girl of about eight watching something and laying so still in the shifting blue and purple light that I thought she was sleeping, but now I see that she is only watching something.
FUN FACTS TO KNOW AND TELL:
0. The British currency unit known as the guinea equaled 21 shillings, or one pound one shilling. It is no longer in use, and so far no one around here has been able to tell me why it ever was.
0. The British use the mile, not the kilometer. However, the British mile does not equal the U.S. mile. That’s all I know tonight about that.
0. Guinness For Strength…..Guinness for Flatulence
0. Celsius converted to Fahrenheit: take the (Cx9 divided by 5) +32. And then you will still be only close.
0. If, in the preceding paragraphs I didn’t use the word “whimper” in describing these sea gulls, I should have.
Late at night from the same balcony:
The aforementioned domes and spirals of the Royal Pavilion are now vividly illuminated from massive floodlights from the grounds below. The rooftops between us are dark now, though some of the fronts and walls are also lit from below, from streetlights, porch lights, pub signs, what have you. But the spires gleam. The thing is, sometimes I look up from this page and see little stars hovering much too low, and then they seem like little UFOs because they are glowing and moving in a funny way, and then you can see that they are sea gulls whose belly’s and wings are lit up from below, from the floodlights and street lights, and they are so bright in this dark sky and so unnatural.
And now that all is so much quieter in the town you can hear finally the surf, and amidst and above the surf the far off sound of wheels on the motorway, and still the call of the relentless gulls.
Now it is so late that there is no sound over the city itself, even the birds are quiet. The city is a still life, with yellow lights in straight lines down the sea coastal boulevards and yellow lights from certain windows, and the faint glow of the street on far off building faces, and all else in shadow and everything is still. Beyond the city the highway still hums and wheezes, sighs with tires flying, moans with trucks and busses, far off and mingling with the easy breathing of the Atlantic.
And I’m still here as usual.
The birds still come over, but far fewer than before, the raiders, the ones who choose the hours when life is upside down to do their hunting, or maybe they’re still hungry, but anyway, just as I close my eyes they can be heard in a chorus sailing over this roof, and I can’t keep writing about them because they won’t sleep and I’m so tired. But listen, they sound sometimes like dolphins and whales. Ever wonder why?