OVER the years of city living, I’ve heard various accounts from people about despicable acts of aggression towards humans from the various species of wildfowl which populate the canal sides of our city.
I was immediately relieved to see that it wasn’t a howling sex offender as I’d feared, but, a swan engaged in an altercation with a goose.
Among the hostile herons, the ghastly geese, the menacing mallards, it is the Queen's very own swans which seem to be the most consistent offenders. I’ve always tried to keep clear of crossing their arrogant, waddling paths.
That was, until a couple of weeks back. I’d been at a friend’s flat and after drinking budget Caribbean rum and dancing to some mild commercial reggae; I had embarked upon the arduous trudge home.
Due to the rain, I decided to take a short cut, opting to brave the cottagers and weirdos and take a route along the canals.
As I ambled cautiously down the dark, snaking pathways back towards the city centre, my attention was drawn to a noise. A horrifying noise. A noise which I can only liken to a banshee being kicked up a staircase made of broken glass by an elderly blues musician passing a kidney stone.
Stealthily pushing a key between the fingers of my nervous fist, I approach the epicentre of the fluttering racket. I was immediately relieved to see that it wasn’t a howling sex offender as I’d feared, but, a swan engaged in an altercation with a goose.
Inherently recalling the first rule of observing nature, I decided it was not my place to intervene so I tried to respectfully sidestep the carnage and carry on about my journey.
Tried being the appropriate word. As I got adjacent to the duelling birds, the swan craned his ridiculous neck to shoot me a menacing glance akin to that of a beaked Jack Nicholson from The Shining after he’d smashed through that door.
Completely unprovoked, he immediately switched his fury to me, abandoning his battle as the cowardly goose took his chance to escape and left me to face the wrath of his feathery assailant. I can’t really blame the goose, I suppose they are bound by the same rules of observing nature as I was.
In the heat of the moment, time stood still as I was struck by a decision of fight or flight. Being the only one in this tussle incapable of flight, I abandoned my innate desire to never wish to cause harm to an animal and made the admirable decision to fight. I considered a swift, devastating kick to the face, I considered an ambitious, jumping choke hold to incapacitate the beast, I even considered removing a shoe to thrash my foe like a father from the Beano.
As he approached, I had settled upon the perhaps foolish option of trying to punch my way out, and adopted a south-paw boxing stance to try and get inside his evident reach advantage. At the critical moment, that sentence passed through my mind, “the Queen owns all of the swans – it’s illegal to kill them”.
Buoyed by sheer terror and mild embarrassment, I revised my plan in a split second. I ran. I ran faster than I’ve ever ran before, thundering along the path with the psychotic bird in tow, quacking intimidating quacks that amidst the chaos, sounded as though they were getting dangerously closer.
Just as I scampered under a little overpass, I saw ahead of me a pleasant couple taking a romantic, night time stroll along the canal, who looked absolutely terrified as I came lumbering towards them screaming “F*CKING.........SWAN!” in a pathetic quivering yelp.
I was so astounded that they hadn’t followed suit and started to flee that I began to slow down, turned around frantically to reveal the thug bird had gone. Relieved, yet humiliated, I offered a hopelessly overconfident nod as I attempted to casually swagger past them.
“Swans, they’ll break your arm, you know,” is the old apocryphal tale. Well, never mind your arm, the swans will rip of your head and quack down the neck hole.
Are you the couple in this story? If so I apologise. Let's hope the swan didn't goose you as well.