Twenty-Six Days Wild – A Marriage of Gulls and Bad Taxidermy

We escaped London this weekend, to the coast, for a gigantic wedding. I was worried that I’d be so busy that I’d not be able to indulge in acts of wildness, but that wasn’t the case at all.

I come from Cornwall, so am very accustomed to gulls and their unpopular habits of stealing chips and mobbing holiday makers for their pasties. The herring gulls of Cornwall can display some pretty wild behaviour, but it’s not always the most natural. The gulls of Hastings however, behaved in a completely different fashion, as though not yet corrupted by our wasteful ways.

As we walked along the carpet of shingle that covers the sea front, I noticed the gulls picking mussels from the rocks, flying about 50ft in the air, dropping the mussels onto the shingle then devouring the delicious smashed morsel. I felt as though I’d gone back in time to observe a forgotten behaviour. Fascinating.

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The Sea front was home to herring gulls as well as the odd lesser black backed gull. They sat on posts, picked mussels from the pier and owned their shingle beach. Everywhere you looked there were pieces of broken mussel shell, and not a chip in sight.

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St Leonards-on-Sea, part of Hastings, is a bit of a ghost town. We drove in past VOTE LEAVE signs and a fallen drunk being helped off the floor by police. It was built as a seaside resort for the well-off in the 19th century, but now feels neglected. The seafront is lined with out-of-business chippies, discount shops and huge caravans. There is, however, one thing trying to pull the town into the 21st century. A brand spanking new, wooden clad pier juts out into the water. We were there on a sunny Saturday morning, but the rides were motionless, almost as though they were museum exhibits.

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The town is full of junk shops, some better than others. You could easily spend an afternoon getting lost in amongst them.

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We wandered through one shop that just went on forever. It was in this never-ending junk shop that my second act of wildness took place. Taxidermy is a bizarre artform. If done well, like many of the exhibits in the Horniman Museum, it can look as though an animal has been frozen in time. On the other end of the spectrum, a bad job can look more horrific than Pete Burns, with a hangover after a visit to the dentist. After the grinning fox, stuffed animals starting popping up all over town.

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On another note; there was a moth in the pews during the ceremony, I saw a number of butterflies in the garden at the reception, the table decorations were plants teaming with ants… and I got wildly drunk.

I need not have worried.

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