Once bitten, always angry


Hidden among the doom-mongering stories of recession and woe this week was a story about a swan which, having previously fallen in love with a Pedalo , has ditched it for a model more able to return its affections.

In my experience, this is perfectly in character. Swans are cantankerous creatures, capable of bearing a grudge for years. A few years ago I was emptying the dregs of a coffee pot over the side in Newtown Creek on the Isle of Wight, to be met with an infuriated hissing as a (previously undetected) bird flapped away looking distinctly brown, angry and jangling with caffeine.

Ever since, I’ve realised that the National Trust own the creek by name only. It is the swans who wield the real power. Safe in the knowledge that Her Majesty will grant them immunity from ending up as the basis of a tikka masala they patrol the harbour like some sort of winged mafia, doling out justice as they see fit.

To people who, like me have fallen fowl (sorry) of the ‘mob’, there is no escape. Two years after the coffee incident I was scrubbing the waterline from a dinghy when a sharp pain in my behind and a circling horde alerted me to the fact that perhaps I should seek shelter in the cabin.

What next? Should I live in fear of finding a mallard’s head in my sleeping bag?