I could have been deeply scarred as a child. I went with my brother Ian, as often as my pocket money would allow, to the Saturday afternoon matinee at Narrogin for the usual Jaffas down the aisle, Mighty Mouse cartoon, Casper cartoon, the Movietone newsreal and a Kit Carson / The Shadow serial, which were then normally followed by a western or my heroes, Laurel and Hardy. However, on this one particular afternoon, a date which will live forever in infamy, if my repressed memory could recover it, one of Alfred Hitchcock’s scariest films, The Birds, was shown. By the time Rod Taylor blows up the petrol station and eventually saves the day, me and most of the other kids in the audience were on the floor in quaking in terror and peering with one eye through gaps between the seats in front. Then on the long walk home the crows kept looking at me. And a bit later I didn’t like the way our budgie, Tweety Pie, kept pecking at his cuttlefish much either.
So you can imagine surprise when I find myself saying, against my better judgement, with my inner child screaming, No! No! No! ‘Look Allen, there’s a WWT, World Wildfowl Trust sanctuary at Arundel on the south coast. It’s only about four inches on the map.’
‘Oh good,’ says Allen.
Autumn is in full … bloom? Full shed, maybe, so we have a tree-lined walk on a carpet of brown, orange and golden leaves from the car park to Arundel Castle. The castle crooks want $30 each for us to get in. I remember thinking the original Lord of the manor could have kept his enemies away by simply charging fees to get in the bloody place. It works for us. We stay well out and more sensibly decide to forgo the pleasures of seeing his old furniture, family silver and family portraits, which would, of course, not have been financed by his ancestors’ profiting from the slave trade, in favour of two bottles of wine at the same price. Instead we continue on towards the WWT. Again, the weather continues to be perfect and the only problem is that the soundtrack in my head changes to a different film. Yep, you guessed it.
The Sanctuary! Sanctuary! he calls, lifting up his lunchpack over right shoulder, dragging his leg and closing his left eye, is really good. (Sorry, couldn’t resist that, again). As you might rightly expect, the sanctuary is full of water birds and is a series of lakes surrounded by thick vegetation and with cunningly disguised hides, hidden. Did you know it can be very difficult photographing birds, no matter how well you are hidden, as the little bustards just won’t stand still. No wonder there are lots of sunsets and flowers on Flickr instead.
I’ve overcome my Hitchcockian inspired fear and I’m fine, clicking away like a cricket outside a bedroom window at our fine feathered friends, right up until one very large Whooping Swan takes a dislike me and my camera and started hissing in my general direction.
‘I thought it would have whooped at me not hissed?’ I call over my shoulder while rapidly running away, having just read the sign. Al who knows all there is to know about twitching just laughs at my ignorance. (Isn’t twitching a great word?)
‘No, that it’s lesser known cousin, the Blue-dicked Alaskan Swan. Beautiful plumage. He wouldn’t have whopped or hissed. Just killed you on the spot.’