According to legend, the Greek messenger Pheidippides once ran 140 miles in a day to take an urgent message from Athens to Sparta. Now, you might need to find someone similarly brave to take a missive to Perranporth in Cornwall. It’s no good sticking a stamp on it and hoping for the best. The postmen have had to beat a retreat from one road in the area, because they’re sick of being attacked by vicious seagulls.
You have to feel for the postmen. They’ve spent decades on the receiving end of dog attacks. Now the gulls have started to see them as fair game too, and that’s doubly bad. You can’t even train gulls to get you a newspaper and a pipe once you get in from a hard day’s posting. The most you can train a gull to do is peck Tippi Hedren on the head, and that’s only ever been useful for one person, tops.
Gulls are — let’s not mess about — the bastards of the air. And of the sea. And of Perranporth. Do you think it’s an accident that they’ve started to reclaim the streets in the very county where Daphne Du Maurier wrote The Birds? Of course it isn’t. They’re not just aggressive, they’re sarcastic with it.
The first time you see a gull steal chips from the hand of a child at the seaside, you know they mean business. Now you quite often see them eating KFC near a bin. They could have chips but they prefer chicken. They’re basically cannibals, and they want us to know it.
Perhaps Perranporth should consult with the people of Aberdeen, several of whom once told me in an unlikely radio interview that they feed their gulls contraceptives in an attempt to control an ever-threatening population. See how the seagull project to reclaim Britain started right next to the North Sea oil supplies? If the Aberdonians hadn’t been paying attention, the gulls would have their own heavily funded militia by now, and a gull in a cap demanding payment before he lets anyone cross the Bridge of Don.
Now the people of Perranporth need our help. The natural predator of the bird is the cat, right? Only gulls are pretty big, so we’ll need bigger cats: lions, say, or tigers. The beast of Bodmin Moor might want to step in. We fill the streets with giant cats, and we eat gull-egg omelettes till the next generation is gone too. In the short-term, this could make Perranporth a little more dangerous, but in the long-term, I’m confident it will work. In the meantime, they’ll have to go the Hogwarts route and get their letters delivered by owls.
Regular users of the Hebden Bridge Picture House may be disappointed to learn there will be no burlesque dancers appearing there next year. Which wouldn’t come as an enormous surprise to me: they don’t turn up at my local Odeon either. But it is a surprise to Heidi Waddington (aka Heidi Bang Tidy), who is one of the organisers of the Hebden Bridge Burlesque Festival (I know — me either).
The local town council has refused to give permission for their event on the grounds that ‘it raises issues of gender equality’. I’m as big a fan of gender equality as anyone, but I find myself wondering if the burlesque show would have been more or less likely to obtain permission if it had also starred a few male dancers in fancy underwear. Or is the idea of anyone cavorting round in fancy pants too risqué for the corset-and-suspender-starved residents of Hebden Bridge?