A funny thing happened on Dungeness beach

I lieu of anything like me going out into the field and seeing something (when did that last happen) I will share with you one of the most amusing incidents that I ever witnessed while birding.

It was during a late summer, at Dungeness, and I was sitting in the seawatch hide that overlooks the 'patch'. Those that know Dungeness well will be aware that the hide is placed at the top of a steep shingle slope that rises from the sea. This is also a popular place with fishermen. Because the birders are sat high up on the shingle bank, and the fishermen are positioned low down at the water's edge, both groups can spend the whole day on the beach without being aware of the other...

It was a slow sea-watch and those of us gathered were starting to get a bit bored. Then, a young lad came into view, as he walked up the slope from the beach below. He stood at the top of the ridge, facing the hide, no more than ten feet away. With almost theatrical care, he looked left - looked right - and then looked left again. We, in the hide, remained silent, wondering what he was about to do.

The lad obviously thought the coast was clear, so he fell to his knees, unzipped his fly and proceeded to relieve himself in the full view of half a dozen bored birders. We all started to stifle our guffaws but what tipped us over the edge was his little face - it displayed sheer bliss - the poor lad had obviously been bursting to go and at last he was able to do so! He leant his head back, closed his eyes and smiled.

As one we started howling with laughter.

The lad just couldn't see where the noise was coming from. He was frantically looking left and right, back towards the sea, in fact everywhere except in front of him. And then he realised that the shed-like building only a matter of a few feet away did in fact have a 'window' and there were people inside of it watching him. He leapt back over the shingle ridge as if he had been touched by a cattle-prod. By now we were howling. But then came one of the funiest things that I have ever seen. It was the reappearance of his little face, peering over the crest of the shingle ridge, just to check that this really was happening to him. The look of bewilderment on his face, his round-framed glasses all steamed up and his cheeks flushed in embarrasment were comedy gold.

Thirty years later I still laugh out loud when I think about this incident. I also wonder whether the man that he has grown to be has cold sweats when he thinks about the time that he went for an innocent wee, while his Dad was fishing, at Dungeness.


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