The attack came suddenly. Expertly. Violently. And I should have seen it coming.
The four of us - Grainne, Donal, Siobhan and I - had just picked up some fish and chips shortly after our arrival in the lovely seaside town of Howth, north of Dublin.
The assailants had been gathering for a few minutes. Siobhan had even been brave enough to confront them head-on and try to convince them to go elsewhere. But I was not particularly concerned. As usual, I was thinking about filling my stomach. I casually grab a nice portion of golden fried cod with my bare hand, take a bite, and savor its warm, briny taste. A small piece remains in my hand.
And then it happened. A flash of white, a bump on my shoulder, a ruffle of feathers and just like that - my lunch is snatched out of my hand.
By a seagull.
I was mugged by a seagull. My lunch stolen from me by a thug of a bird, who clearly had some expertise in robbing unsuspecting tourists.
It was a shocking start to our visit to the idyllic spot, known for its hiking trails, striking light houses and gorgeous coastline.
Fortunately, the gull only managed to grab a small bit of my lunch, so I was able to enjoy rest in peace after we moved to a safer spot with more tourists and fewer birds.
Freaking birds. No wonder that Alfred Hitchcock chose them as the villains in his 1963 classic movie “The Birds.”
We climb aboard a green city bus and take it to the Summit, which, as the word implies, is at the top of the town. From there, we trundle off and start our hike down near the stunning Baily Lighthouse, which has been guiding ships since 1814. Our friends at Wikipedia tell us that there’s been a lighthouse on this point since around 1667.
The weather is - let’s say - changeable. Glimpses of sunshine, followed by a soft rain. We’re pulling rain jackets out of the backpack to stay dry and then stripping them off minutes later to cool down. But it’s all worth it for the views. Howth’s rugged coastline features views of Dalkey and Dún Laoghaire’. Donal notes that Wales is somewhere out there across the misty waters. The hiking paths are well worn and busy with Bank Holiday Weekend visitors. Flowering thistles line the trails, along with a few stinging nettles. Although it’s a relatively easy walk, one can imagine a time when this was a much more challenging landscape to navigate.
We make our way down to the main road and then back up, up, up back to the bus stop, where we catch the green double decker back to the train station and to Donal’s and Siobhan’s home in Blackrock.
After a quick rest, we head out for dinner at a local restaurant - Le Pastis. As the name suggests, it specializes in French cuisine. The entire restaurant staff know Donal and Siobhan, and we’re greeted like the Prodigal Son - fatted calf and all. We start with foie Gras and grilled Halloumi cheese salad. Fresh bread and butter - of course. Then comes the main courses - boeuf bourguignon for me. Grainne goes for the steak frite while Donal and Siobhan order the hake topped with prawns.
We finish off our feast by sharing a couple of desserts - rhubarb creme brulee and chocolate and cherry mousse.
There’s lively conversation and plenty of laughs as we enjoy the summer’s evening, sitting outside eating and drinking.
And the best part of all - not one hungry seagull in sight.