Stanley Pelter

Back home tomato plants and sunflowers have lapped their

way through 25 litres of water. The two-inch deep tray in which they

are interweaved to stop them blowing over is refilled. So grateful I

forgot to ask about the rest of the garden. Heat is bleaching. “100°

recorded,” he tells me. “This week records will be broken,” a flat TV

voice predicts.

Here, it is perfect walking weather. Wind manipulated, a

broken grey sky scuds. A single gull glides close to sun tipped, dark

trough waves that move in repetitious motions. In a sweeping loop,

it curves away from the water. Gliding higher it descends in a bullet

dive. Just before striking the sea wings tuck in. After a breathless

time it emerges with a catch.

greatblackbackedgulls beak

clutches the brittle starfish

sea drops spill over

Gannets fold wings, dive into an animated sea. By the shore

a curlew hangs onto its statuesque position. Further down, sea-pyats

do what they do best. A pair of ringed plovers, a red throated diver

and a shelduck; all are busy.

With its pincer held catch, the gull flies to a craggy pillar of far

flung rock whose height strands it above the most restless of searching

waves. This is a mature, spectacularly angled starfish, its colours

still shining with clinging sea wetness. For a while a brittle, knobbly

shell withstands every effort to enter or dismember it. Without once

loosening a tight grip, any number of manoeuvres is applied. One the

gull seems not to have learnt is to secure the fish on the rock with one

leg and pummel with a hammer beak, or tear at its underside. Who

knows what, if anything, a gull learns? Who dares hook onto the idea

this particular fish was born for just this moment; that death achieves

its life? or is it just haphazard, a case of being in the right place at the

wrong time, attached to an absurdly correct ‘no meaning’?


proactive gull

chosen starfish is raised

to new heights

Meanwhile, the gull’s relentless input of energy begins payback

time. With no anaesthetic, no clean cut, no sewing of torn skin, a

starfish spine is amputated. Broken, rough edged shell is flung over

scarred rock. A second follows. It is swallowed whole as great backed

gulls appear from the east.

sharp body

all of a sudden

strangely fragile

The bird struggles with a remaining triad of brittle shell-covered

flesh. A new strategy is used. It happens so fast that binoculars are

little help. The three extensions are squashed so all face the same

direction. Gull’s mouth opens W I D E, like a snake swallowing

a chicken or an ostrich egg. This is a gull’s misshaped orifice. In

one sucking guzzle the scratchy shell, the stretched pulpy flesh is

swallowed, sliding past the gullet into an interior well of acid. No

time spent in delicate wallowing. No subtle tastes. This is an action

of predatory power propelled by speed.

starfish journey

adds an elements to rocks

an ebb and flow pose

Now the black winged gull, still on its barnacle-covered stand,

goes rigid. This event is complete


              cousin of David

                                       not now the shape of a Star

hard and soft expires

hour in the life and death of  a starfish