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This report is taken from PN Review 163, Volume 31 Number 5, May - June 2005.

From a Journal R.F. Langley
Monday 13 October 2003

To the Hen Reed Beds this morning, on impulse, leaving the house cleaning half done. In the creek there was a seal which had caught a big fish, the size of a slab-filling salmon. The seal's head, and its forepaws, holding the fish head uppermost, rose above the surface of little waves which were running inland as small pyramids with sparkles of clear bubbles threading over their tips, all travelling briskly. The fish's mouth was a round hole. Its stomach was bitten out and bloody. The seal's nostrils opened and closed, its black eyes were spectacled by pale fur, its white whiskers stiff and hard, its fur glued down, wet and shining. It was often on its back, holding the fish up to its chin, biting out pieces of silver and pink. Then it would sink under for a time and rise again, always head and forepaws only, in the same place, in spite of the tide. It was watching us. We were only ten yards from it, sitting on the bank, our binoculars rising and falling. A kestrel overhead, swept round by the wind, chestnut, cream and black spottled.

Cold fish in your mouth. Raw. Estuary water lapping inside your cheeks, running through your lips, tinctured with cold blood. How do I stand towards this? An episode that was protracted long enough for some contemplation, so that the creature was as if a dog, made familiar, as if patted, almost smelled. Drenched ...


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