Friday, 1 July 2011


The craw on the Aiberdeen roof watched the blank sky lighten fae the East. He strutted ower the tiles, flapped up to the red brick lum and sat keekin at the spurgies fluttering at his feet and at the doos on their roosts, only half mindin' his business. He was cock o' the walk this particular day, this fine new-year morning when the fowk in the street were hardly there at aa. Och, how they walked aboot, bleary-eyed at the flecks of winter red fading in the aggravated sky. Like a battered army in retreat they were, and Auld Corby creaked out a caw at the lot of them… and they should have been feart.

The starlings confabbed at his feet; they were afraid of the big black, raven-black hoodie that he was. A fine morning, they all agreed, for a pickin' ower o' the morning's comeuppances. Some said as much in the arrogant sma’ voices such birds possess.

Fine, fine, said Auld Man Craw, in a kind of question, as if he didna gree. Such pickins as I've had have gien me a bad belly.

A spurgie, bolder than the rest, jested. Ah, that’ll hae been the spewing up o some Chinese cairry-on. Now, we speugs have the sense to stick with guid Scots fare.

Aha! says the Corbie, pouncin up an doon on the roof ridges, up fae the ridge to lum and down again. Agitated, he hopped the nearer and took a peck at the maist runted wee cratur. Your airse couldna crack a biled bean.

Dawn had brocht a welcome bounty for the birds. Pools of fresh vomit lay in cauld wreaths on pavements aa ower the toon; thrown up in the nicht by the mair bilious o the Hogmanay revellers. A pairt of the feast is forever offered up to the Gods, and like the swarms of flechs in summer or worms at autumn plooin, these blossoms had a welcome place in the economy o the birds.

Gulls had focht ower the bigger of the pickins throughout the nicht. First licht brocht doon the lesser species and the crabbit auld craw, railing at the bare-faced greed o the sea-birds. He was brimful of ire that mornin, having rousted up a pair o black-backs from a biggish cowp ootside the Clansman.

Never enough, never enough! he cried an ate his fill, an ate his fill again o sweet an soor.

Now, whether it wis the quantity or whether it wis the mixture o his feastin, but the craw on the roof was well intae the throes o a terrific dyspepsia. His normally waddling gait was hobbled even further the day by the ructions in his stomach. The sparrows taunted, hacket-airse, in their twitterin. The craw stooped his heid and took on sic an evil cast. He cocked up his leg and let oot a richt squeaker o a fart. Oh me, oh me, he groaned an the wee birds looch to hear his ache an his feeble experforation.

He turned noo to face them an lumped his nethers up on the clay-pot lum. A great fart like breakin rocks went avalanching doon the flues. Ooh, by Jesus! The man hoodie gave his relief a name as the tears rolled doon his beak. Aa the wee spurgies flew to safety, an the doos were off their gutters as quick as you like. The roof seemed to shak with the tremor o his blast. And he followed it wi a lauch as loud as Auld Nick himself, boomin' out to commend sic a brakking o win as hell iteslf had not heard this many a New ‘Ear past.

In the eaves ablow, ae sleeper was stirrin. Even as the sun was up an cast its cautious beam of licht across the bedhead, he’d heard the pigeons an the sparrows cacklin comfortinly in the chimney pots. He’d heard their chatter come doon in the fireplace amang the cawins o the craw. In his still-shut een their shapes fluttered in a kine o dream, an he heard their squabblin an their growin alarm. Then, as clear as day, he heard their silence, fan the birds, departin, broke off singin. In the soonless space ahin it, the enormous fart came sharp and resoundin. The awesome thunner exploded doon the lum. Soot fell in the iron grate and clattered in the shunners, covering aathin. Dust, ash and clinkers spilt oot into the livin room, spreadin a pall o smorin grey drift in the shafts o sun.

 © BH 2003

Just after midsummer is a good time to remember Hogmanay. Even now, the Corbies are at it. Where, in the lean season they strutted gallus on the rooftops, in summer they conspire against every nestling but their own, black and ragged, intelligent as death.

We humans know nothing. Every season brings us its excuse for oblivion. We wallow in our excesses and fall into black holes of our own making. There is more about that in the words which follow the above (not reproduced here). The crows let us be, though, having their own interest in our shambling lives and our so-called civilisation whose parings fill their swollen wames.

Updated properly into Scots in June 2015.