Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Wrecking of Briongloid

The call came late in the evening from an unfamiliar number; a voice I had never heard before told me that Briongloid (Irish for "dream") was hard aground the rocks outside her home cove. Several hurried phone calls later, I was on the road to the coast, racing through the darkness in convoy with a hastily press-ganged brother-in-law, trying beat the water to our precious boat, and take the salvage opportunity presented by the approaching high tide.

A few miles down the road, the dash was ended by another call; a crew from a local boatyard had got her off. Too late to do any good now, we turned for home.


The next day, I saw her. Back on the trailer she had left so recently, her bottom paint still brush-fresh, but her hull now sadly battered, the smooth swell of her hull now sadly gouged and scraped, with cracks that penetrated the hull below the waterline. The rudder, refurbished mere weeks ago, smashed to matchwood, only fragments remaining attached to the gudgeons and the tiller. Inside, the flexing of her hull had cracked the interior. Below, a sinister crack ran right around the keel.

Not good.

Columba livia domestica

Our resident lap-warmer and dog-scarer was waiting at the door for his breakfast, wearing his most winning "poor starving cat" expression. The performance would've been much more convincing if he had remembered to clean his blood-soaked face...

It wasn't his blood; our back garden looked as though a lunatic anatomist had been doing his dissection al fresco. A blood-mad killer he may be, but he does very neat work, tidily discarding offal like the stomach and intestines. On this morning, he had dismantled a racing pigeon (his largest prey to date, owing to an unfortunate local scarcity of Struthio camelus). The unfortunate bird (hailing from a loft in Dublin city) had been carefully butchered by his experienced claws, the wings neatly jointed, and the head set off to one side as a trophy.

The most interesting anatomical feature remaining was the rib cage, picked as clean as a whistle, which allowed me to get a really good look at the keel, a high thin ridge of bone which projects from the centre of the chest, running vertically along the centre line. The size of this bone (I estimate it stood about 30mm proud of the rib-cage proper) indicated the huge size of the (since devoured) muscles - the living engines that can propel a pigeon through the sky at 45 miles per hour, for many hundreds of miles. Fantastic creatures.