Saturday, October 9, 2010


Normally, at the end of my two-week’s trip to Tassieland, I always had at least three hours spare, where I had vacated my motel room and would sit on the beach, trying to relax.

My favourite place is on a grassy hill, overlooking the sandy foreshores and the relentlessly ebbing and flowing of the waters. It never failed to have a calming effect on me. This was very welcome as there was only hectic work awaiting me for me ‘on the mainland’.

Having bought two loaves of bread, I looked out for the seagulls who were flying around me enquiring as to my purpose for being in what they considered as their domain. They went zooming past me, ever closer, clearly intrigued as I was not eating anything; there were no potato chips to be had or any other welcome leftovers, a fact that seemed to add to their confusion.

‘What are you doing here?’ they seemed to cry in their peculiar shrill voices as I slowly unwrapped the first loaf of bread.
Ah, they knew what that was and the swarm thickened. From all directions they came, landing on the sand below me and their expressions were definitely ones showing expectation.

Finally, I threw the first piece of the delicious goodies and they all fluttered and screamed with excitement. It was quickly caught in mid-air by a hungry expert and off it zoomed with its tasty morsel to devour it in isolation and privacy.
The next piece of bread, too, was quickly caught and the third and fourth lumps, too, never reached the ground.
After a while, the first ones came back for more, with their gullets slightly bulging.

There was, of course, eager competition among them, but I had the good feeling of having brought enough for them all. And in order to be just, I kept throwing the pieces in different directions to equalize the feeding chance for everybody.
Throwing the food unexpectedly to one side, gives outsiders a chance to obtain some nourishment and it was amusing to note that some could not believe what the had suddenly caught!

Slowly, I kept breaking off and throwing – there was plenty of time – whilst my thoughts, first in turmoil, narrow down to the job at hand.

The birds now started to reveal personalities with different character and temper.
There was the greedy one, with its gullet already full, fluttering up and taking more bread away from the others. In the end, it didn’t know what do with it as it was already full. Yet it still keeps denying food to others, only to have to drop it somewhere far away.

Then there is the intimidator or stand-over merchant who runs around trying to discourage fellow birds from participating in the feeding. With its big belly and self-confident stance it pecks and pushes its mates till they fly away for a short distance, trying to escape its bullying.

Then, there was the polite one who stood still and waited for a morsel to come flying in its direction, completely relying on my sense of justice. It gratefully accepted a lump of bread I managed to throw right in front of it.

Others had the problem of having to cope with mob rule, that is, whoever caught something had to fly off quickly to a safe place, otherwise a pack of riff-raff would take it out of its beak only to have to continue to fight for it until it has been swallowed up by somebody lucky.

Then, there is the screamer, who believed in making itself noticed. Emitting shrill sounds, it tries to get my attention. Not for it to exert itself, it stands motionless and merely increases its voice to an incredible crescendo. And, if given a piece of nourishment far too big to swallow, it would not share with fellow screamers, but furiously peck everybody coming near.

Another type is the rogue, trying to ram others away with the tackle of an experienced rugby player.

The world around me disappeared as I kept feeding ‘my flock’ and I could clearly identify people I knew in their midst. The boss, union official, politicians, honest workers, friends and traitors, neighbours, and, yes, good colleagues. Of course some would be really offended if they knew how I identified them but this was my private world in which I dwelled happily with my thoughts, emotions and lots of insight. It was a world in which humans and animals merged as they both could be categorised by their character and without any difference!

Deeply absorbed in thoughts, I noticed a unique little bird. It seemed to have two useless legs, paralysed or broken, they looked normal but could not be used. It flew in, landed on its belly but was unable to walk or hop closer to where the action was. It was a scrawny bird, its feathers untidy and it definitely looked very unhappy. Its thin and scruffy neck showed that it had no nourishment for God knows how long and its hungry eyes followed my thrown pieces of bread without being able to do anything about it. Here was I creature desperately in need for a fair share of what others had and I had the power to do something about it!

Directing the bread farther and farther away to my right hand side, the whole flock moved in that direction, anticipating my future throws. That’s when I quickly lobbed a large piece to that crippled bird which gobbled it ravenously into its gullet.
With enraged cries the great flock returned, attempting to prevent this occurrence in the future. And again, I slowly directed my throws to my right side, farther and farther away. When I could not throw any farther, I quickly dropped a large piece in front of the handicapped creature and again if was gratefully accepted and stored away.

I did this a few times, till I noticed the poor creature preening itself, the feathers were tidied up and its beak seemed to move around its skinny body with more energy and zest. It looked around with more interest and its mood had clearly lifted. And with the tip of its beak pointing upwards, its gullet was bulging with sustenance – life was worth living again!

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