From the rooftop

Posted by Ken Edwards on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 Under: Hastings
The view from the roof of our house - chiefly of other roofs in Hastings Old Town - is wonderful, especially on a very balmy, watery-sunny December day. But there's something illicit about it. I'm not supposed to be here. It's not very comfortable. I have just crawled out of the Velux window into the lee of the chimney stack and I have to twist my ankles into strange positions to wedge myself in the runnel below the chimney while simultaneously leaning against and trying not to dislodge a bank of moss-encrusted tiles. I'm anxious because I ruptured my left Achilles tendon (on the tennis court!) just over two years ago, and it wouldn't do to have another accident here.

Anxious too because this is not my home but that of a pair of herring gulls who nest here most years and condescend to let us dwell beneath them. I am trespassing.

In previous contributions to this blog I described all this, including the damage the gulls caused to our roof a few years ago and how it was repaired. These posts have been, ironically, among those most accessed in the years since (along with the stupid one I did about Carol Ann Duffy), by people entering search terms such as "herring gull mating habits". I have even been asked by online strangers for expert advice on the topic.

My anxiety has meant I haven't been up here since well before my Achilles rupture in June 2011, despite a resolution to clear the nesting mess after every mating season. And now I see that I am not a moment too soon. The gully is absolutely caked with earth, grass, bits of wire and straw, fishbones, fragments of fishermen's rope, earthworms, tiny fragments of mussel shells. If this is not cleared, sooner or later there will be a return of the water ingress problems down below, as the rain fails to drain away and backs up under the eaves. Bad news. And this might be the last bit of good weather of the winter and therefore the last chance to clear it - in March the pair may be back for the 2014 breeding season, eyeing their old haunt and in bellicose mood.

It's hard work. I use a shovel and later a trowel, but there's not much room to manoeuvre. Each shovelful gets carefully lifted back to Elaine, who's standing at the little window holding out a succession of black plastic rubbish sacks. Which have to be transported through the loft (crawling on hands and knees) and lowered through the trapdoor to the stairwell below.

But after an hour, it's all done. For another year. They will return - scandalised that their home-making has been trashed again by those beings from Down There. We're a goddam protected species, they will tell one another, what the hell is all this about?

In : Hastings 

Tags: "herring gulls" 
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Ken Edwards This blog is written by Ken Edwards, co-founder and editor/publisher of Reality Street, and it's mainly about the press. Ken's personal blog can now be found at