The story so far: My wife and I (known to each other as Darling and Sweetheart) found a severely injured seagull on the beach at Coronet Bay and took him home to look after. After a few days and little sign of recovery, we talked about dispatching the bird, whom we’d named Jonathon Livingston Seagull. It was only afterwards that we found out he was keeping a diary. We’ve managed to decipher the following excerpts:
Well, I’ve found that nothing focusses the mind or agitates the body like the threat that one might imminently be shuffling off this mortal coil! However, when I woke up on the morning of what could have been my final day alive, I was relieved to find that out of the blue I had managed to recover some movement in my body. By the time Sweetheart came into the kitchen to make breakfast I had the shoebox I was housed in rattling so hard it nearly fell off the bench.
“Oh look, he’s lifting his head above the level of the box. What a clever boy,” they cooed to each other, like a pair of turtle doves. Normally, I might have felt like regurgitating my breakfast at this point but, I reasoned, if this was what I had to suffer to stay alive who was I to make a scene?
Another day, another development. Because I was “showing such great progress” it was deemed to be time to put me outside. This gave Sweetheart the opportunity to deliver one of his self-proclaimed witty one-liners. “Come along young Jonathon,” he said, in a particularly annoying voice, “It’s time to put you into protective custody,” and I was released into a covered area of the garden.
Later, after dark, I awoke to find myself being serenaded with the unmistakable, oily charm of a fox saying, “Well, well, you’re a long way from home my beauty. How would you like to come home with me to meet my family?”
My feathers stood on end and my heart raced. I thought I’d escaped death earlier only to be led to a much more painful and ghastly end less than 24 hours later. But underneath his patronising and annoying habits, occasionally Sweetheart showed a modicum of sense. No matter how hard the fox tried he couldn’t get through the netting and wire that protected my enclosure. I soon recovered my poise and was able to let him know just what I thought of his more and more frantic attempts to get inside with me. In fact, you could say “I really gave him the bird” - Oh no, now I’m the one who’s coming up with the wisecracks!
At this point several entries become indecipherable. We pick up the story at …
Well, it seems my days in captivity are coming to an end at last. As I have now recovered my ability to fly - and found my voice, I am deemed almost ready for release by my carers. (I think my ploy of squawking at full volume all through the night may have helped with this.)
Sweetheart was at his most excitable earlier as he came out to tell me he had found exactly what is required to prepare me for this event from something called the web (which has nothing to do with feet, as far as I can tell). “It’s from the vet at the Sydney Zoo, so it’ll be spot on,” he added.
Well, my opinion of zoos soon took a nosedive, I can tell you. I’d heard conversations on the beach where I used to live that gave me the impression zoos nowadays were focused on animal welfare. However, it seems the vet from Sydney was definitely old school. Far from promoting a welfare regime she was clearly a strong advocate of boot camps!
As a result, I soon found myself being chased around my pen by Sweetheart urging me on with cries of, “Come on Jonathon, you need to be able to fly for 10 minutes at least before you can leave”. He didn’t give up till I collapsed on the ground panting and gasping for breath.
On seeing this activity, Darling seemed horrified. “For goodness sake, slow down,” she called out in a sharp voice.
“Well, at least someone here is concerned for my wellbeing,” I thought, until she added, “Be more careful, you’re treading all over my tomatoes!”
Sweetheart and Darling
One Sunday afternoon in January my wife and I found a severely disabled seagull on the beach at Coronet Bay. After some debate we decided to bring it home. It was only later we discovered the bird was keeping a diary.
I have no memory of how it happened but there I was, dazed and shocked, stuck halfway up the beach, unable to move a muscle in my body except for my beak. And that wasn’t a lot of use because when I tried to call out no sound emerged.
To make matters worse, a couple of interfering old busybodies came strolling along the sand like the Walrus and the Carpenter until they were right there in front of me, intruding on my personal space. The one with the pink hair, who seems to be called ‘Darling’, picked me up, examined me, and pronounced: “It’s as good as quadriplegic."
Then she said to the white haired one, who she called ‘Sweetheart’, “What are we going to do with him?” They then had a long debate about the correct ethical response!
“F*** the ethical response!” I tried to scream, “if I stay here for much longer I know a fox or two who’ll have me lined up for dinner, no debate.”
Fortunately for me, Sweetheart, who described himself as “a bit of a softy”, won the day. I found myself being carried along the beach and put in the back of a car with a load of junk they’ve bought at the Bass Bazaar. Still, it had to be better than becoming supper in a fox’s den.
Later: Sorry, but the whole experience has confused and exhausted me so that’s all I can manage for now.
My “hosts” have found me a shoebox that I “fit in perfectly”, which makes them feel quite pleased with themselves for some reason.
I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but the accommodation leaves a lot to be desired. The size isn’t a problem, I still can’t move my body, but the best they can find for me to sit on is some straw and shredded paper. It’s not the most comfortable – and they don’t seem to have noticed that my bladder’s still working. How about cleaning it out from time to time, I thought. How I miss the warmth of the sand drying me out after a good day’s scavenging along the water’s edge.
And the food. “He’ll like this,” Darling says, as she hands in some bread soaked in water. Where do they think I normally eat – in a prison?
“I’ve got news for you, lady,” I did my best to indicate. “I was eating better than this at the height of the lockdown.”
Then there’s my name. “It’s the only name we could have used,” they told their friends. You and a million others, lady. If I had a chip for every gull I’ve heard called Jonathon Livingston, I’d be able to feed every bird in Western Port for a year.
Finally there’s the small matter of my gender. Do I need to lay an egg before they get it? If this gets out I’ll be a laughing stock from Phillip Island to Wilson’s Prom.
The day started well. Breakfast was a thick yellow paste with a bit of substance to it at last, “fresh from the chooks”, apparently. Instead of letting me get hold of the feeder myself, though, Sweetheart insisted on trying to squirt it down my throat and it ended up all over me.
“Oh dear, Jonathon, you’ve really got egg on your face this time,” he chortled, in that smug voice he uses when he thinks he’s said something clever – which is quite often.
What was I going to do? My mind raced. Then I heard him say, “I’ll give him one more day and see how he is in the morning.”
Good old Softy. I had 24 hours to save my skin!
At this point the diary becomes smudged and we are still working on deciphering the remaining entries. As a result, this story will be continued in the next edition.