In Hitchcockland

It’s as good as it looks

I’m here to read, not to write.

Sun on water, lights on water, water. Sea against river. Ever-changing stillness.

Once upon a time, pre-Medium, pre-smartphone, pre-laptop, I could come to this place and read seventeen books in a week. That’s documented fact (some of them were shortish and/or had pictures, but even so). And that’s despite the mesmeric view from the window, of which I’ve put a tiny night-time fragment above. If I gave you more, you wouldn’t be able to stand it.


Sun on water, lights on water, water. Boats at anchor. Ever-changing stillness.

In this old town, where every house has chimneys, many flues are capped with silvered cowlings that spin in the wind from above or the draught from below. The flashing reflections keep birds from settling, forcing them to perch or roost elsewhere. It’s bad news for those few chimneys and telegraph poles that don’t have anti-bird measures. It doesn’t discourage the seagulls from attacking bin bags left out on the morning they’re due to be collected. There’s a small industry waging the vain war against them, an arms race against an enemy that fights only with numbers and aggression. The flashing cowls are a battle-standard.

Sun on water, lights on water, water. Wind over tide. Ever-changing stillness.

Across the river, the two-gabled house you can see left of centre, between the big group of lights and the singleton, is where Daphne du Maurier lived as a girl. Later, she wrote The Birds. Yesterday, walking here from the car park, I found out why. A small flock of gulls was wheeling above, screeching and cawing. On closer inspection, there were two kinds, one smaller than the other; either two species, or two generations of the same species. The larger birds were trying to chase the smaller ones from their current patch of sky, while the smaller repeatedly darted back to reclaim it. They might have passed unnoticed, except for the sound.

Sun on water, lights on water, water. Sails and small motors. Ever-changing stillness.

It was nothing like the pealing cry of the herring-gull. The larger variety moved silently, intent on demonstrating to the other its superiority. The smaller variety protested, or proclaimed itself, with a cry like no bird I’ve ever heard. It sounded like a human child, making the noise it imagines a bird might make. Inhuman, and equally unavian. Eerie. A supernatural phenomenon occurring above me as I walked, unconcerned, below.

Sun on water, lights on water, water. The stuff of life. Ever-changing stillness.

But I’m here to read, not to write.