Pelican 9/11

I hurry down the street with my brain on fire. I get to the end of Old Rock Road and onto the beach. I throw myself down and try to calm myself. Propped up by the shingle bank, I look out at the blue. I can hardly bear to look out at the beautiful blue blueness of the blue. The beautiful blue blueness lapping at the sand that’s emerging with the lowering tide. A few kids to my left are playing in it, to my right, on the harbour arm, some blokes are casting for mackerel. All could be well, all could be well in this world but all is not well. So, so not well. I have a vision of the juvenile gull in front of me covered in oil, immobilised by Mobil, or Shell, BP, Esso whoever, it hardly matters and the sea, the precious sea, smelling so salty-fresh today being sprayed with chemical dispersant, the fishing boats grounded, the beaches closed and death creeping over our home.

Oh never mind, don’t worry. One of the World Cup squad just smoked a cigarette. That’s news. Not dolphins and whale sharks just heading in now to feast on the fertile waters of the beloved delta. Summertime and the livin’ should be easy. Migratory birds on their ancient pathways, hungry and tired, ready to drop down to the blessing of a wetland that once brimmed with life. To dive on what looks like a feast is to dive straight into a dead shoal in a toxic pool, tarring feathers, weighting down drowning birds, sinking to oily graves, sinking with the whale sharks, sinking down to Davy Jones’ deadlocked locker with the disintegrating black charred baby whale I just saw on Facebook through strings of snot-like dispersed crude, passing the dead shells and twitching fish as they float up to the surface and at the same time, in the sand, there stirs the miracle of new sea turtle life, erupting out of the soiled sands, pulling themselves with those tiny flippers towards the rainbow sheen of certain death, those tiny flippers flapping towards where their mothers died too, fried in crude, brains burnt out by chemical narcosis and ... and ... hey! Some bastard’s throwing stones at me! One, two, three hits right between my shoulder blades. I look round. It’s Kippers. He comes over to me, suddenly the only friend in the world, rescuer of this stricken bird on the beach. He sees the look on my face.

‘Hey! What’s up?’

By this point I can hardly speak. Through my gasping for air I blurt it all out, from the BP spill to the end of the world scenarios with every conspiracy theory which now I’m not so sure is just theory, including the reason why I happen to be looking at this stuff right now, i.e., the Offsetters bollocks and that I seriously think I’m going to crack up. In fact I am cracking up. Today, right now, here.

‘Come on. Up!’ He says, putting out his hand. He takes a rag out of his pocket and hands it to me and gives me his sunglasses. We start heading back up the beach towards the car park. He asks me if I’ve got baccy. I say no. He calls across to a young guy, bare chest, skinny, tanned. The lad runs over, gives me a cigarette, a light. Nasty ready-made poison stick and I suck on its homeopathy for dear life. I realise suddenly how tired I am. He tells me to wait in the shed. Now the oily smell of it has all sorts of different and deadly connotations. He comes back with a plastic cup of something, I sniff it.

‘What is it?’

‘It’s brandy I think.’

I drink it, feeling it burning my gullet like Corexit 9500.


‘I know how you feel.’ He says, putting on his kettle.


‘You do?’

‘Yep. Remember 2002 — The Prestige, Galicia? Europe’s Exxon Valdez?’ I look at him in amazement.


‘Yeah, I do. I hadn’t been here that long. Just remember hearing about the fishermen there and thinking of this place and what if a tanker split in half in the Channel. It was one of the things that made me start educating myself.’

‘I went there to help.’

I sit up. ‘Really?’

‘I’d read up all about the Valdez because I spent some time in Alaska. I was there in ’85. Long story. Went out to Bligh Reef with a fishing crew. Exactly where it happened. Prince William Sound. Three thousand otters, same number of harbour seals, twenty odd whales, a couple of hundred bald eagles and a quarter of a million birds. And that’s just the ones they could count. The oil’s still there, just under the sand. No one went to jail. Some said the skipper was drunk, others that Exxon stitched him up cos they didn’t want to pay to get the radar fixed. Fact is shit happens, that’s why we shouldn’t be running the whole show with poisons.’ He shrugs.

‘Jesus. I can’t get my head round the numbers. It’s horrific.’

‘I couldn’t sit here and do nothing when the Prestige spilled. They were welcoming volunteers, so I went. Changed my life forever.’


He shrugs. ‘Let’s just say it truly opened my eyes.’

He gets up and takes a box from a shelf, gets out two cups from a cupboard under the workbench.


‘Rugged coastlines see. The Braer in Shetland, Bligh Reef, yeah, named after that Captain Bligh, Galicia — birds and wildlife love the rugged places, the nooks and crannies, nature’s safe houses — for breeding, nesting. Not so great for ships. Don’t forget the Sea Empress. Single hulled tankers going through conservation areas? It’s insanity.’

‘Did you go to Shetland too?’

‘Nah. They were organised up there. And lucky. Norwegian crude’s lighter, easier for nature to deal with. Still bad news, but better than Galicia. And certainly better than this latest.’

‘What’s your take on it?’

He shrugs. ‘A rig leak’s a whole different ball game. Specially this one cos of the depth and the pressure. They’re only deepwater drilling cos they’re getting desperate. Never should have come to this. Should have been investing in renewables for the last forty years, you know the story.’

‘Do you think it was an inside job?’ He hands me a cup of spicy scented herbal tea. ‘Some conspiracies on the net seem to think so.’

‘What, rather than it just being cost-cutting, greed, negligence or the usual lack of foresight? Listen love, I don’t give two shits if Prince Philip, Bin Laden, Cherie Blair and the little grey men from Mars did it to celebrate the birth of Barry O and Sarah Palin’s three headed lovechild! Any which way you look at it it’s a fucking disaster! You can waste a lot of energy trying to work out who to believe.’

‘But they’re spraying poison everywhere! The poor people! The animals! It’s starting to rain the stuff on the crops! I wish there was something I could do.’

He shrugs again. ‘How about focusing on something else, Ecuador maybe?’

‘Very funny.’

‘I’m not laughing. A lot of people have been trying to do something for years. Big pusher man’s got us all hooked. That is serious power. Governments grovel to big oil. Big oil’s king. Right now it literally rules the world. A global market needs a lot of transit fuel. Oil provides 40% of all the energy used worldwide, and that’s without its use as a raw material. Black gold’s what keeps the rich rich. Big Oil, Big Pharma, we’re all being farmed, darlin’.

‘I know. But...’

Just then the door opens. It’s Kathy. ‘Alright? Saw you two coming in.’

‘Mike’s upset about the BP spill.’ Kathy comes over and puts her arm round me. ‘You can’t let this stuff make you ill love.’ I want to cry again. Bloody hell. I’ve got to get a fucking grip right now. ‘It’s your meeting tonight, isn’t it?’

‘Yeah,’ I snivel.

‘We’re still heartbroken about Zorb — hasn’t even really hit home yet, has it Kip?’ He shakes his head. ‘Did you show her your poem? That’ll cheer her up!’

‘Nah, not now.’

‘Go on Kip. It’s great this is,’ says Kathy nodding at me.

‘You’ve got to put your feelings somewhere love, isn’t that right Kip?’

He nods.

‘I’m trying to do that but I’m just finding it really hard today.’ ‘It is hard. But there’s no point in you becoming another victim of it, is there?’ he says, taking a notebook out of the drawer where the other papers were and clears his throat. ‘It started out as Trouble on Turtle Island but Pelican 9/11’s more catchy.’

‘What’s Turtle Island?’

‘It’s a Native American name for the US.’ I’m loving it already. He clears his throat.

It’s pelican 9/11
It’s pelican Pompeii
Down in the Gulf of Mexico
Things ain’t going their way
What a wonderful bird is the pelican
Its beak can hold more than its belly can

But its beak wasn’t built as a jerry can

It’s pelican Pompeii

It’s pelican 9/11
It’s pelican Waterloo
They’ve given it a whitewash
A pelican shiny and new
A pelican they prepared earlier

Check it out – they got rid of the goo

Soon he’ll be home with his family

In a sea that’s all clear and all blue!

It’s pelican 9/11
It’s pelican World War 2
Believe that and you’ll believe anything
Cos buddy, you’re goin’ straight to the zoo
But I’m only here on vacation!
It’s all been a really bad dream!
I’ll be goin’ back home tomorrow
Why you laughing? What the hell d’you mean?

It’s pelican 9/11
It’s pelican Apocalypse Now
It’s a big news day for the oil men
Check the share price on Wall St, the Dow

But still it’s a price well worth paying
For fun in the land of the free
For traffic jams wars and pollution

Forgive me if I don’t agree

It’s pelican Armageddon
It’s pelican World War 3
You were lucky you lived the life that you did

That your eggshell survived DDT!
You’re the last one left little fella
You’ll make friends soon enough, wait and see

You’re far better off in this birdcage
There’s broadband! There’s HD TV!

It’s pelican 9/11
It’s pelican judgement day
Just smile for the camera now birdy
The world needs to know you’re OK
Hey turtle! Don’t I know you from somewhere?

How you doing my wrinkly ole dude?
What you sayin’ ’bout a joke down the delta?

That’s not funny, don’t laugh – that’s just CRUDE

It’s pelican 9/11
It’s pelican Pompeii
We’re sunk we’re broken we’re busted
2 miles deep 60,000 barrels a day
What a wonderful bird is the pelican
Its beak can hold more than its belly can

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