This is a special day! Although you all have been living through several such days over the last decade, where the odd-numbered day, month and year go up in a neat progression, there won’t be another one along for a while: this precise mathematical pattern won’t be possible again until the first of March 2105. Will there be any Dickens Dogs around then, I wonder? It is also special because the sun is everywhere and the sky is beautifully blue; it couldn’t be further from how Thomas Hood sees this month in his famous and funny little poem. Up on next door’s chimney breast, where our beloved big herring gulls breed every year, George (one of the twins born to them this season) has returned like a good son, to see his parents. He and his sister regularly land up there and whinny for a bite to eat, meeting up with one or other of the adults who gives them a talking to and then sends them back into the world to get on with it. Over the years of getting to know these generally rather despised gulls, we have come to respect them. They have been building nests on next door’s roof for years, and we’ve watched their every move: first, as they prepared to lay in the newly constructed and rather uncomfortable-looking nest, then as they cared tirelessly for their hatchlings week after week – for far longer than other birds, or so it seems – guarding them as they change from fluffy large bundles into mysteriously feathered creatures; finally guiding them through the tortuous process of learning to fly, for which the babies are most unenthusiastic. Although this year’s twins are quite grown up now and have probably done all their seabird exams, they still love to return. The bond between the generations is delightful and terribly endearing. Swans we are used to seeing in their nuclear family on the mere not far from the dunes; but gulls? Aren’t they ugly, gluttonous, greedy horrors, ready to peck the sandwiches and chips from your hand? We like their little kneecaps, their beady eyes, their striking plumage, their courage over the water and, most of all, their capacity to show enduring affection for their parents and the security of the home where they first saw the sun: up there, looking down on us, looking out at the islands and the wild ocean they must eventually learn to make their own. Thank you for coming back!