Crashing into Bauke Mollema: A seagull’s perspective

by Iain Treloar

photography by Jan de Meuleneir/PN/Cor Vos © 2022

I am, apparently, a seagull – a chroicocephalus novaehollandiae, a Silver Gull – but truthfully, I do not know what those words mean because I am a seagull. My interests are as follows: sitting, shitting, flying, feeding. Sometimes I do two of them at once. Sometimes I do more than that. Once, I shat while flying and eating, but that was a bit much so I haven’t tried it again. Too much excitement. I don’t like excitement.

Which is why today was a very bad day.

Let me set the scene.

I woke up the way I do most days: in the city of Wollongong, in the state of New South Wales, looking for the next meal. Lately there have been more people about. There are signs everywhere saying UCI Bike City, the humans seem to be excited or agitated or both, and there are lots of colourful ones on wheels on the roads. I have taken it in my stride, because down at the foreshore there are lots of chips to be had. I like to eat chips.

Many of the colourful humans have been bothered by magpies while they are here. I do not understand why the magpies are so cross at them, but then, I am a pacifist. Most gulls are. Throw a chip at me every once in a while and we’ll get along just fine.

When I learned that orange human Bauke Mollema has been bothered by a magpie, I was very sorry to hear it. He strikes me as a kind man who met a bad bird, and not all Wollongong birds are bad birds. Some of us just want chips. We’re all just trying to make our way in the world.

I believe that even now. Even after what happened.

What happened? Well, today I was pecking around a metal barrier looking for a chip and I saw Bauke Mollema approaching.

He seemed angry about something. I don’t know if he was still angry about the magpie from yesterday or whether something else happened, but he seemed like he wanted to be somewhere other than Wollongong and in the spirit of avian ambassadorship I wanted to right some wrongs. I wanted to let him know that just because he’d had one unfortunate experience with a bird in Wollongong didn’t mean that something bad would happen every time he encountered a bird. That’d be absurd!

A few vigorous flaps and I was in the air, moving toward a future friend.

I thought he’d slow down and listen to what I had to say, but I was wrong. He was going so fast! I didn’t know colourful humans could be that fast! Before I knew it, he was upon me.

I tried to gain altitude. For a moment I perched on his hand. I hoped I could stay there, perched like one of those fancy falcons from the Middle East, but his speed was too great and my flapping was too frantic.

I gave one last big flap, putting every ounce of strength into my wings to try to avoid a collision.

Too late.

He ploughed into me from behind, sending my tail feathers forward and pushing me into a backward tumble. My head hit his shoulder.

This wasn’t going very well. I knew it, he knew it, and now you know it too.

I kept tumbling. I have never heard of a washing machine, on account of being a seagull, but if I had I would probably say that I looked like I was tumbling around in one.

My feet span out to the leading edge of Mollema’s left arm, which I feel may have reduced his aerodynamic efficiency as he flinched away from me.

[Editor’s note: Wind tunnel testing has repeatedly shown that a mid-sized gull plastered across an elite cyclist can hamper time trial performance.]

At this point I didn’t know where my body ended and Bauke Mollema’s began. Maybe we were always fated to be like this. In my mind, we’re still like this now – half feather, half man, an unholy alliance.

I am a seagull. My interests are sitting, shitting, flying, feeding. Today, I crashed directly into Bauke Mollema, continuing his comically bad run of interactions with Australian birds. It was a mistake for which I am very sorry, and I won’t try it again.

Too much excitement. I don’t like excitement.

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