It’s quite a shock when something that you have only ever read about – and never quite believed in – actually happens to you.
Standing looking down over Tenby’s beautiful Harbour Beach, I was lost in contemplation of the sunshine and blue sky, and halfway through my Greggs vegan sausage roll, when I was mugged.
There was a rushing, flapping sound and I was hit in the head by what felt like a soft but firm pillow. For less than a second, I saw the rear end of a large white bird in front of me. And then it had disappeared – and so had my vegan sausage roll.
I had been robbed by a seagull.
For an instant I felt angry and then, looking down at the Greggs bag still in my hand, which had until a few moments ago held my lunchtime snack, I was mightily impressed.
My attacker had been able to spot the food from on high, swoop down on my blind side, remove the roll from the bag, and escape with the loot in its beak.
It’s not that I hadn’t been warned. I’d seen newspaper stories about such incidents; and bird expert (and my former colleague at The Oldie magazine) John McEwen in the excellent new book, A Sparrow’s Life’s as Sweet as Ours, points out that ex-PM David Cameron once had his seaside ham sandwich snatched by a gull.
On top of all this, earlier on the same day that I also became a victim, I had seen a warning outside a Tenby B&B saying: “Please don’t feed the seagulls. It encourages them to attack.”
Foolishly I had laughed at this. Not any more…
As I was standing doing my best not to succumb to post-traumatic seagull syndrome, a concerned woman came over to check that I was all right. I assured her that I was, although I must have looked quite stunned. She told me that a man she knew had had a similar experience with a seagull coming down and taking a bite out of his sandwich. “After the seagull had gone, he carried on and ate the rest of it,” she told me. “But he was ill for three days afterwards. That seagull had given him something.”
So the seagull giveth and the seagull taketh away… You have been warned.
- A Sparrow’s Life’s as Sweet as Ours by Carry Akroyd and John McEwen (Bloomsbury, £20)
- Illustration © Carry Akroyd, www.carryakroyd.co.uk