Swann’s Way

11/07/2013 by Christopher Buxton

On the brink, smart retro black iron railings front the narrow three story house – the first in the row leading off from the bridge over the weir. There is no gate but a paved path adjoins a small grassed triangular garden. There are a couple of garden chairs conveniently placed in front of the French windows for the afternoon sun and there is a swan sitting in dignified discomfort on the stone flags. He hardly notices the young man hovering near him with a broom.

The swan fills the small space. The grass next to him is covered in feathers and smeared black turds. His human housemates have thoughtfully provided water in a plastic container.  He is three yards from the river, but he is now so scared he will not even venture into the high reed bed, just below the bridge.

We have been looking out for him and for her. When we left in May the young couple were set up in a nest on the opposite bank. We thought then that the nest was perilously close to the bank and the passing dog-walkers.  Still the nest seemed to survive the floods and the bird loving powers-that-be erected a small fence on the bank, to discourage unleashed dog attacks.

When we returned in July, we scanned the river for signets. We looked for the couple. We saw a single swan up the river, too far away.  Then we saw him on the second day, standing like a silent guard dog just behind the railings of the first house beyond the bridge.

The swan’s young human housemates feel helpless. They have phoned the RSPCA and the RSPB. They know now that swans do not mate for life but are not sure if their swan has accepted this. Their swan has been badly beaten up – hence the mess of feathers. Out on the river the new cob-of-the-walk swims, wings akimbo, ready to glide into attack the moment our swan dares to enter the water. This new swan doesn’t recognize any human notions of sanctuary and Persimmon homes have provided no gate to supplement their fine black railings.

We ask the young man with the broom about the signets. Foxes got them.  We ask about the pen. She did come and sit with him in the garden early on, but then left him. The young man doesn’t know what to do.  The RSPB will not come out until the swan is so badly injured it needs treatment. Meanwhile they have put part of a child’s playpen across the gateway. We look at our deserted swan and project  feelings of hurt bewildered male pride and humiliation. His pristine white begins to blush. He is loose beaked, his tongue lolls in the heat.

At the other side of Colchester another swan bully cob is in action. To the horror of our friend who lives within sight of the former monastery fishing pond and was alerted by the anguished cries of the Canada Geese parents, the cob has taken each of the newly born  goslings and broken their necks.

In the human world two teenage boys, back from their holiday in Greece are walking home.  They meet a group of young soldiers, back from their tour of duty in Afganistan. The two teenagers are beaten senseless.