Seagulls are much on my mind at the moment. Urban bloody seagulls! Of which we would appear to have a huge number in Cheltenham, many of which would appear to like nothing more than starting their day (at around 4am) in the immediate vicinity of our house. And I have to admit that I would be prepared to pay someone quite a lot of money to make them go away. Preferably permanently.

My most recent wake up call, a few days ago, was particularly galling. I’d dozed off the night before reading an excellent article by Tim Macartney, Founder of the Embercombe Community in Devon, on “The Healing Power Of Nature”. Full of great quotes – “the tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity, and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself” (William Blake) – and some great insights from Tim himself:

“Slowly, yet persistently, it seems we are discovering the weave of interdependence that throws us alongside all other forms of life, and suggests that we may yet return home to a profound sense of belonging to this Earth.”

One of the authors that he references in his article is Richard Louv (“Last Child in the Woods”), who first coined the term Nature Deficit Disorder to highlight the phenomenon of more and more kids being deprived of any contact with that natural world, let alone the kind of contact that nurtures, excites and heals – as in “makes whole”. And so to sleep…..

Next thing I know, those bloody urban seagulls are dive-bombing the house – and my thoughts shift from Nature Deficit Disorder to Nature Surfeit Disorder – as in too much contact with the natural world. These seagulls are not just loud: they’re raucous, bullying, ugly. They will not be ignored. There will be no further nodding off, no temporary respite.

If I was by the sea, in their natural habitat, I would almost certainly feel more tolerant, given that they were undoubtedly waking up early and raucously long before any humans settled in. But this is Cheltenham, miles from the sea, which makes them aliens, invasive interlopers. In other words, fair game if anyone set a hawk on them, for instance.

Come to think of it, they’re not even game. Apart from a few crazy people up in the Outer Hebrides who love nothing more than the occasional fulmar stew, nobody eats seagulls. They don’t even have that redeeming, utilitarian feature – unlike wood pigeons or even blackbirds, if you’re into all that four-and-twenty malarkey.

The blackbirds provide my one early morning solace. When the seagulls eventually shut up, moving on to persecute some other sleep-deprived citizens, the pair of blackbirds that nest in our tiny back garden decide it’s safe to come out, and start giving voice, tremulously at first, and then eloquently, melodiously even. And I begin to feel just a little bit of that “healing power” that Tim Macartney conjured up for me the night before.

And all that before 5am in the morning!