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The collected opinions of an august and aristocratic personage who, despite her body having succumbed to the ravages of time, yet retains the keen intellect, mordant wit and utter want of tact for which she was so universally lauded in her younger days. Being of a generation unequal to the mysterious demands of the computing device, Lady Bracknell relies on the good offices of her Editor for assistance with the technological aspects of her journal.

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Location: Bracknell Towers

Friday, January 12, 2007

Eel meat again....

Working in (or, at the very least, attending) an office which is right next to the river Mersey isn't all wine and roses, by any stretch of the imagination. As anyone who has stood waiting for a bus for forty minutes in a howling gale in the middle of winter will confirm. It's not just that the waterfront has its own micro-climate: it's also so far from the centre of town that it is served by very few buses and is well off the trundling-around-touting-for-business route of the city's legions of black cabs. I know someone who had his glasses blown off his face into the dock. I have known of people actually being blown off their feet. Even I have had recourse, on occasion, to clinging to lamp posts. And, if you've seen my MBE photographs, you'll appreciate that I'm no lightweight.

On the other hand, because it's built over a dock, we do get to see a bit of wildlife. On a summer evening, there's something very relaxing about watching swarms of jellyfish drifting gently about in a sheltered corner. On a sunny day, if you squint, you can also often make out shoals of tiny fish fry, huddling together for safety. And the seagulls have learned how to open mussels by dropping them onto the concrete from a great height. (I gather this is rather less entertaining for people who have nabbed one of the increasingly rare parking spaces when a seagull misjudges the wind speed and a mussel plummets with devastating effect onto a car bonnet.) I'm told by the security staff that there's even a visiting fox, but he or she is never seen during most people's working hours.

Anyway, I wandered outside today for my afternoon breath of fresh air to see a fairly small cormorant wrestling with an enormous eel. As a larger cormorant with a rapacious glint in its eye hove into view, our hero dove under water to protect its prize. This was an effective strategy in the short term, but the villain of the piece loitered with intent on the surface, waiting for our hero to run out of oxygen and be forced to re-emerge. As soon as the eel was once again in play, it was snatched untimely from the beak of its captor, and juggled until it was facing the right way to be swallowed whole.

The eel, being still very much alive, objected - as one would - to being swallowed, and wriggled its way back into the water with all possible speed. The local seagulls, all of whom have made an art form out of being able to spot a potential light snack from a great distance, were by this time baying for blood. A short skirmish ensued, after which the larger cormorant managed once again to swallow the eel whole.

The eel being of considerably greater length than the available eel-storage capacity inside a cormorant, our villain struggled mightily to keep his lunch down. As his gullet bulged bizarrely with writhing sections of furious eel, he sank ever lower in the water.

Did the eel make a second and successful bid for freedom? I'm afraid I can't say. I had to go back inside before the drama was completely unfolded. Why, then, am I tormenting you with an irritatingly incomplete anecdote of nature red in tooth and claw? Because I thought of the title of this post on the bus on the way home and it amused me. Sorry.

The Editor


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dame Honoria is now unable to concentrate on any work tasks as her brain is totally occupied by the ‘eel vs cormorant’ dilemma.

Is the eel digested alive? Do cormorant gullets have a non-return valve? These issues are of far more import than software development. Well, maybe not to the client that requested the software, but you can’t please everyone.

2:16 pm  
Blogger Lady Bracknell said...

From Cormorants Info:

What do cormorants eat?

Cormorants commonly take fish between 5 and 15 cm (2 to 6 inches) in length, but have been recorded eating fish of over 40 cm (16 inches) and eels of over 60 cm (24 inches) long."

From Wikipedia:

"Cormorants are often noticed eating eels, but this may reflect the considerable time taken to subdue an eel and position it for swallowing, rather than any dominance of eels in the diet."

Er, and a photograph of a cormorant eating an eel.

In other words, I can't find the answers to your questions. (The same questions I was asking myself on Friday afternoon...)

8:33 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dame Honoria has found the rather splendidly-named site oiseaux.net which contains these fascinating facts

Buster wonders if cormorants taste like chicken or like fish.

4:37 pm  
Blogger Lady Bracknell said...

Intriguing. But still we have no information on how a cormorant keeps an eel significantly longer than itself down...

6:24 pm  
Blogger Melissa said...

Ack! Now I'm going to be wondering what the heck happened! :D

Thank you for visiting my blog (and my "Loch Ness Monster" story! :) )

12:56 am  

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