Lessons learned

Vogelbescherming Nederland

Vogelbescherming Nederland

[column by Jip Louwe Kooijmans – January 28th 2016 – Vogelbescherming Nederland]

With my homework neatly in my bag, probably just one year in highschool, I went to English class. The assignment was being discussed openly. “Jip”, the teacher asked me “what can we see on the beach? I read out loud for what I had written in my notebook: “on the beach we can see gulls”. As if it was on command, all children started laughing. The teacher supported me by giving me a compliment for my answer. The class thought I said: “on the beach we can see girls”. Apparently the other first graders did not read English bird books and therefore didn’t know the word “gull”.

On a regular base this story pops up in my mind. Because not a year goes by without some civil servant or journalist calling me with a question, or rather a complaint. about seagulls. Every time I tell them if we don’t change and reorganise the city itself, it is pointless to fight them directly. Do they never learn? If we keep the city clean, the seagulls don’t have to clean up our mess. Everyone understands, but nobody seems willing to know. In the city of Alkmaar the gulls are even been shot because of the so-called nuisance. On the other side of the North Sea, in Newcastle, an information board draws the attention of the people passing by on the colony of Kittiwakes on the window sills and bridges along the River Tyne. It is a mindset.

When I was in school children with red hair were scolded, until the redheaded Sandra van Echten appeared in a video clip of the Golden Earring and everyone realised how beautiful women with red hair are. Be proud of what you have, although sometimes you have to be made aware of it by others. With seagulls it is no different. Seaguls are beautifull. There is no question. Only those who do not have an eye for beauty can dislike them. Flying Seagulls stand for beauty and suppleness and above all this, seagulls are the symbol of freedom. Gulls are among the best fliers of the Animal Kingdom and have learned to successfully adapt to a world that is increasingly dominated by people. If we again admonished, we can organise the cities in a way that the seagulls follow us as we wish. I think seagulls and people in the city can live together perfectly. Only gulls learn their lessons faster than we do.

Read Jip’s column in Dutch here


this column is a pre-publication of De Stadsvogelaar & andere verhalen.
a short story book by Jip Louwe Kooijmans, published in mid February 2016 by Aspekt.