The old, the young and the gull – a tale of the Ciés Islands

“Young One, do you see that floating contraption coming from behind the mist? That is lunch”. I hesitantly looked up at my elder. Both said contraption and the large creatures coming out from it seemed rather indigestible, even for our decidedly non-gourmet flock. – “But one needs to be cautious” he added, after a pause. “These are wingless brutes that do not appreciate sharing. Be particularly wary of the small ones, which are clumsy but fast”.

We cooked this text under lockdown, from our home in Lisbon, and peppered it with photos from our 2018 trip to the Ciés Islands. The somewhat dystopian narrative fits both our current times and that trip, as a gull did indeed eat our lunch.

I was grateful for the moments spent with the Old One, and often wondered if I would one day be like him. Looking down at my lanky pale limbs and mucky brown plumage, I doubted that I would ever have the same strong yellow legs and such a magnificent white and grey coat.

The foggy morning further clouded my thoughts. It had been like this for days without end, and I felt trapped in our small island and my own tiny thoughts. I could only imagine what lurked behind the mist, and I craved for a time when my wings would be strong enough to pierce through it.

“Be patient, Young One”, he said, seemingly reading my mind. “Come, let us go for a flight around our domains”. As we circled around the island, a torrent of thoughts and other matters of equal substance poured out of the Old One.

“We birds, despite (or perhaps because of) our prodigious intellect, worry constantly. We worry about sunshine and we worry about rain. We worry about crowds and we worry about being alone. We worry about getting too tired and we worry about not getting tired enough.”

“Sometimes, something truly concerning comes along, and we realise how small were all our previous concerns”. – “And from that point onwards we don’t worry about petty things anymore?”, I eagerly ask. – “Sadly, no”, responded a desolated Old One. “But perhaps you will be better than I am in putting things into perspective”.

We had rounded the island and were again close to the wingless creatures. – “Look, see that family of three, distancing themselves from the rest of the pack? Let us follow them”, said the Old One.

The family wandered off to a beach, empty apart from a few of my siblings. “Young One, I am old and fat, I will stand aside and let you eat. And remember, be daring but cautious”. I studied the family from a safe distance. The two larger ones spoke some sort of incomprehensible gibberish, but the cries of the smaller one reminded me of my own kin.

I approached him, hoping that I could explain my empty stomach predicament. He saw me, put down his food and stood there, observing me. The food was tantalisingly close, but the Old One’s words of caution echoed in my head. After a while, he grabbed a handful of sand and offered it to me. “You mock me, young wingless creature, I see there’s no reasoning with your kind!”

I shifted my attention to one of the two larger creatures. He seemed to be the halfwit of the pack, and was busy pointing an odd tube-shaped contrivance to my siblings. I swiftly approached his unattended food and swallowed it whole. Before he knew what happened, I was high up in the air.

The wingless gull looked up, angrily waving his arms and voicing expletives. “Too late, my poor buffoon. May you learn something from this!”. With a full belly, I darted to the highest point of the island. Up there, the air felt cleaner and the mist was already clearing up. Life was good.


Verne and the Young One *

11 thoughts on “The old, the young and the gull – a tale of the Ciés Islands

    1. Thanks Fabrizio! We start every year with grand plans of posting more often, but then work gets in the way. We also had high hopes that. after five years, we could quickly whip out a post, but we still need a bunch of iterations to come up with something.

      Fortunately this time we had Young One’s help, in exchange for another cheese sandwich. It felt a bit like rewarding a gangster to rat out on his accomplices, but the story had to be told.

      We didn’t trust him with the phone, so we used Siri instead of feet and wings. Half of the time she can’t even turn the bedroom light, but did a great job with Young One. Go figure!

      – Verne

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Ahh, that was a bit unfortunate. Was it a sandwich? The stone bridge and the last two photos are marvellous. I keep seeing various wild animals in videos from isolated cities and towns all over the world, half expecting a pack of wolves to come over any day now. Whereas some animals that have come to depend on tourists are hungry now. As is Fontana di Trevi, hungry for coins. I hope you are well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was a sandwich indeed! Quite a big one, in fact, but the gull managed to swallow in one go.

      Quite a resourceful fellow, I’m sure it managed to stay fat on an island devoid of inattentive tourists.

      How’s Bestia doing? Lucky dog that doesn’t have to wear a mask during summer 🙂

      – Verne

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Unexpected wisdom from the seagulls. I’m reminded of a book, popular back in the 70s, entitled “Jonathan Livingston Seagull.” It’s a tad more metaphysical, but who knows what direction Young One will fly?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That title sounded familiar, so I went and checked my reading list. It’s on the ‘want to read’ pile, but I don’t remember putting it there… perhaps the Young One got hold of my phone after all!

      – Verne

      Liked by 1 person

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