The Starfish Thrower (1)

Until 2012, we always spent our family holidays in the very far west of Cornwall, near Penzance in a district called Penwith. One of the most famous places to visit is St Ives, a small town on the north coast. The map shows roughly where we are in England:

And here is St Ives. Welcome back, O Orange Arrow, which today marks the site of an Art Gallery, of which more later:

I love St Ives, even though it has changed enormously since we first went there in 1987.  Tiny interesting shops, faced with weekly rents of £2000 for a glorified phone box have all departed, unsurprisingly, leaving just fast food shops selling either traditional Cornish pizza and burgers, or surfwear shops, all tight and rubbery, and presumably not meant for the people who visit the fast food shops. St Ives is now really too expensive for locals to live there, thanks in the main to the London bankers and financiers, who can buy a house or two with their annual bonuses. Some streets are completely full of second homes so that from October to April, some areas of St Ives can become a ghost town.
In summer though, it’s different. Here’s the beach on the map above, and in the background, all the houses have saffron yellow lichen on their roofs, a sure sign of clean air:

When the tide is completely in, the beach disappears and the real locals come in to see what they can steal. A male Grey Seal knows he can come swimming into the waters near the Pier and a fisherman will throw him some unwanted fish:

On the promenade, the cleverest individuals in St Ives move to the attack. They are Herring Gulls larus argentatus argenteus. The gulls just walk around on the pavement and people might give them a chip or some other scrap of food:

On other occasions they operate in twos and threes and behave just like velociraptors:

One gull will get your attention and the second one will fly in from the side and snatch your lunch. Don’t ever taunt them. I saw a slack jawed teenager do this once. She waved her ice cream to the female gull in front of her, taunting her with how much food she had and the bird had none. The teenager didn’t even see the male gull who crashed into her head from the side. She dropped her ice cream on the floor. The female picked it up and they both flew off. How I wish I’d been filming it!

I found this among many other photographs of naughty gulls on Google. The good proportion of them were taken at St Ives:

This lady is not the silly teenager that I spoke about earlier. She is a completely innocent and trusting bystander.

Incidentally, I had a second hand operation on February 8th, so I won’t be able to reply to any of your comments for, probably, a couple of weeks. As soon as I am able to, though, I will answer what you have been kind enough to contribute.


Filed under Cornwall, History, Personal, Wildlife and Nature

24 responses to “The Starfish Thrower (1)

  1. jackchatterley

    Get well soon, John.

  2. Mend quickly, John. Loved the velociraptor analogy. Spent my first honeymoon on Penrith in 1964

    • Thanks, Derrick. Penrith is a wonderful place…and all those Cornish pasties too! I keep saying I’ll get some by mail order from McFadden’s. Perhaps that should have been my New Year Resolution!

  3. The gulls would certainly help me to stay on my diet and not buy any ice cream!!

  4. How lovely to see the return of the orange arrow, surely missed by the many admirers of your fabulously dry humour.

    I do think these beasts are trying to take over the world, not those who visit the fast food shops, but the gulls who fead on their discarded food wrappers and dropped chips! They are mighty beasts! Maybe Hitchcock foresaw the future!

    • I fully agree with you! The surprising thing is that in terms of breeding numbers, the Herring Gull is on the decline. I don’t begin to explain that. You certainly wouldn’t think it was true if you sat on a bench overlooking St Ives beach and waved a Magnum about for couple of minutes. (The ice cream, not the biggest handgun in the world, I hasten to add).

  5. wesiks899

    Beautiful part of the world. Best wishes and I wish you a speedy recovery John.

  6. Loved reading this, John. What a shame that things have a way of changing. Sending well wishes to you that you heal quickly and am back in the groove. Take care!! 💞🌷💞

    • Thank you very much, Amy. My hand is doing fine, thank you. It is a great pity that things change, usually for the worse, and usually so that a smallish number of people can make money out of the changes. More than 400 years old and it still rings true: “Ye cannot serve God and mammon”.

      • John, how true …. sad the way things change usually for the “small” percentage’s advantage and the fact to this day you cannot serve God and mammon. I’ll serve God, thank you! 🌹

  7. Thank you for sharing, a cousin was telling about a temple town in North India where the monkeys do what the gulls are doing. He said people have to be very careful. Regards.

  8. Yes, I suppose that those monkeys are about the same intelligence as the gulls. The one bird that is very intelligent but does not do anything like this yet is the crow. Perhaps he will learn one day! Here in Nottingham, it is zero and very cold. I washed a window and the water on it froze straightaway. So back inside, to a nice warm chair and the TV set!

  9. Chris Waller

    I will join with you in lamenting the decline of independent shopkeepers. Our shopping centre used to comprise mainly small independent retailers but now consists mainly of outlets of the large chains. The local Tesco is the size of an airship hangar. We still have one independent hardware shop but the owner pays £100,000 per annum in rent, add to which wages, heating, telephones, business rates etc. etc. so one wonders how long he can survive. In Bristol we have Cabot Circus, a ‘shopping mall’ comprising 90 shops, 89 of which I have never set foot in since they sell the sort of things for which I have no use. In the main they all sell ‘designer label’ clothes, for which read ‘cheap tat made in Bangladeshi sweat-shops’. The same is true for much of the centre of Bristol. As leases come up for renewal rents rise and retailers move out. Ironically, I find it increasingly difficult to find shops that do sell what I want.

    • I could not agree more. It all comes from America, of course, where the rich people have worked out how to maximise profits even if it hurts other people. It is ironic that Thomas Jefferson envisaged a country with lots of small towns, lots of small farmers, lots of small businesses and therefore jobs for everybody. I worry about exactly where the elitist system we have now is going. Repeating history? French Revolution 1789, Russian Revolution 1917 and a close miss in England in the early 1800s. It could happen.

  10. The gulls in Scarborough are quite insistent too – I’ve seen a couple of virtual muggings there. They never seem to trouble me – probably a case of finely tuned survival instincts. 🙂

    • To be honest, in St Ives they always seemed to be able to spot the people who were unaware of their surroundings and busy concentrating on their own concerns rather than their surroundings. One of the marks, I would think, of an expert predator.

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