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GULL By Johnny Rodger The wee birds are that busy they cannae think straight. I’m no sayin that they don’t think or that their thoughts isnae worth havin. We’re wheelin aboot up here, an ye get a good look at them; a panorama if ye like. Even then though it’s no easy to draw any kinna logic fae the ceaseless stir that rummles aroon below ye. ’Course the irony is that every movement thae wee birds make dis seem, on the face ae it, precisely very straight, fae this height. But that’s no the same, I’d say – that direct approach tae things – as havin a clean, clear, an immediate understaunin a yer environment, uv aw the factors at play, an yer necessary uptake wi thim. They’re mibbe sittin oan the gutter at the edge uv a roof somewhere enjoyin the midday sun and chirpin away tae their teeny fellows: their eager eye spots a worm nosin tae the surface at twinty-five yerds, in a window box doon across the street. Afore they know it thirsels they’ve tipped aff. An straight as an arra they’re doon tae their prey. This sort a thing goes oan aw day. Oan wan level we’re made tae look lik a bunch a idle procrastinators, coastin aroon wioot a care while the wee yins doon below keep this city alive, alert, an oan the move – ur mair specifically, oan urgent, useful, fruitful moves. Bit wan thing we kin day fae up here is question. I don’t mean that question, the wan aboot the fruitful right enough, the ‘where is oor next meal comin fae?’ That’s simply a given. It’s no even a question, mair a physical weight, so strong an merciless are its urgins. Bit ye look doon fae here oan the sorta activity some wid propose as an answer tae the problem, ‘why are we here?’ ... an it’s laughable. Like I says, that’s no thinking – it’s jist geometry. But it’s a kinna geometry – tae continue tae labour the metaphorical point – thit consists entirely in jynin up the dots and connectin points A an B as directly an swiftly as possible. There is, fur example, nae consideration geen there tae the question a the substance ur significance uv points A an B – a gutter an a windae box!? Or tae whit relationship that line drawn atween them bears tae the thoosans a uthir simultaneous lines capable a bein drawn oot bi uthir wee burdies’ activities elsewhere across the toon. I mean, if ye map these lines oot an extend thim directly tae infinity, whit wid ye huv? A mullion wee burdies aw splattin thegither wi wurms in thir gubs at the end a universal time? It’s a blind geometry uv the instinct. An an unwholesome prospect fur those ae us thit kin see. An ‘so what?’ ye might say … Well, clearly I’ve goat plenty time tae think ‘what’ up here, an I’m mibbe wanderin a wee bit, bit ye get ma drift. – Ur private

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preoccupations oer a grub tae bi raised tae the level a philosophical enquiry? Naw.Yir wings wid bi stretched sair an yir webbed feet wid crack open afore ye could untangle yersel fae a fankle a lines leadin naewhere. Awright, I’m no gaun anywhere either. An it’s no jist a matter a snobbery, intellectual ur utherwise. Aw’s I’m sayin is I’m up here an I’m watchin. How could anyone huv a better view uv aw the ongauns, an huv a better platform fae which tae pit it aw in context? Thirs nae compartmentalism nur short-termism this wey. I’m scootin roon an if it’s no precisely a simultaneously all comprehendin view I huv, thin the very fact thit I move swift, smooth an in a broad circular sweep, means thirs at least a kinna generalised take. It disnae mean it’s mair right cause it’s broader a course. Ye scramble oot the shitten and feathery heap a twigs that wis yer cot an crabbit playpen. Ye stumble across a stone ledge, trippin oer yir ain big yella flippers, an, whoosh! yer nose-divin fae a height a sixty fit. Ye don’t even know ye’ve stuck oot yer long, skinny, ganglin wings, faur less unnerstaun why ye did it, afore yer swoopin back up an skitin gawkily roon atween the tap flaers a the buildins. Such, at any rate, is the auspicious prelude tae yer generalised take. It could haurdly get any worse, bit the real cynic wid wonder if it ever gits any better. Basically whit I’m tryin tae say is I don’t cater fur ‘things’, I don’t take thim intae account, thir nae part a ma calculation nur undirstaunin. Yon hypothetical cynic wid naturally agree wi me, an figure the above fur an admission that I’m nuhin bit a dreamer, wi ma heid – in the maist appropriate uv images – up in the clouds. Fair enough. Bit yer wee bird, the wan thit’s ey dottin aboot fae pillar tae post, thit’s oan this windae ledge, ur that branch ae a tree, thit ey hus the shiny knuckles a his wee claws grapplt aboot some safety catch when he’s no dartin efter his dinner – he’s hedged in wi hings, he cannae see beyond thim. It’s as if he’s tottin up every minute a his day on a kinna dietary abacus where each coonter is yit another fleshy invertebrate pulled intae his gub fae the muck. In the meanwhile I kin haurdly claim thit the wee birdie’s ey grabbin an haudin at aw sorts a gear is a sure sign a insecurity in his personality, an thit it gies me bi contrast some clear moral ur psychological superiority oer him. – No that is tae say, if I’m forever keepin hings at bay, haudin thim back an avoidin contact. In that sense, am I no jist as beleaguered wi ma long solo flights an ma mental abstractions fae the earthly draw uv hunger, as the wee burdie weighed doon wi its piles a hings alive, never alive, and dead?

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Okay, the wee fella’s doon there an he’s engagin physically wi his patch. He’s daein it aw through time: he’s pilin up relations tae bits an pieces a hings, so tae speak, whitiver comes tae his beak, ur his wing ur his wee claw: he’s takin account a the weight ae it, an the shape ae it, an the texture ae it, an the time an the effort it takes him tae get tae it. The solid contours o his haill patch are gradually emergin through the relationship ae aw this tae his livin body. An in the patch beyond him, oer the other side a yon building; and in the wan across the carparks ;an the wan through the hedge; an the wan oer the other side a the burn, hunners a uthir wee fellas huv their ain patches, an they’re aw busy building up the same sets uv combinations a things an their peculiar stories. In the meantime I’ve come scootin oer thim aw twinty times an mair. It’s aw the same tae me whit answers each individual wan a thae wee birds – oblivious tae aw the rest – come up wi. Ma long view disnae focus on thae wee peculiarities oan the grunn, but I’ve git nae lesson tae gie thim – I couldnae even tell thim how tae fly properly. Aw’s I know is, on and away – on on on, away away. Even that auld question uv gravity: I cannae git moral aboot the power thit’s ey bringin us doon an forcing us tae fill oor bellies wi unwantit weight. They’re doon there anywey, amongst aw that stuff. So why waste ma time? I jist come roon the corner, a blast a wind hits me, an I ride it up. I’m daein it. Ma wings ur wobblin a bit, bit doon below I see it aw flashin by. Where’s the sense in that endless pattern a struggle, aw the permutations uv material and the weys tae stick yer beak in it? The problem is thit I’m up here, aye, bit thirs no gaun any higher. I’ll

be back roon again oer the same patch in ten minutes, an it’ll aw be stull the same. Me wi ma beady eye spottin the same long questions that wullnae be answert, an thaim doon there, the wee yins, ey wi a savoury answer in their gullet tae questions thit huvnae been asked. Cos whit the wee birds really like is singin. I’m no sure how – if at aw – this relates tae the question a weight. An I’m hopin ye’ll no get intae a flap wi promiscuous insinuations whin I say, they jist cannae git it up, the wee birds. Naw, whit they dae insteid is, they lay it aw oot. That’s thir song: naebdy asks thim fur it, an naebdy knows whit it means. It’s jist laid oot free lik a carpet oer the contours o aw that jumble ae uthir hings doon there. An in comparison, sometimes it seems tae me thit thirs too much air in ma squawks and squeals. An though I hink as I float roon thit I’ve goat at least a plausible notion uv the right questions, an uv whit thinkin is, the expression uv it aw ey veers aff intae sumhm thit jist pipes oan ae its ain accord. The problem is I’ve got nuhin tae lay it agaynst, this expression. Thirs nae substance fur me tae measure each note oan, I cannae git a stop tae its blawin, a hard block tae bounce a line back, ur cheynge its direction. Hits aw, as I says, on on on wi me, an the wind’s taen it aw away, every last squeal, afore I’ve even heard it masel. Ye might stop tae wonder whit thae musical wee yins make it aw. Bit they cannae think, thirs nae ‘aw’ fur thaim; an as fur me, I cannae stop. I’m floatin up here an they’re dottin aboot doon there. Ur we even two ae a kind: the wans thit cannae girrit up, an the wans thit cannae lay it oot?

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Johnny Rodger: Gull  

Part of JR's animal series - from issue 25, Autumn 2007.

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