Monday, June 15, 2009

14 In the swan’s Nest - Cookham

Sunday June 14, 2009:

It’s such a gorgeous weekend that I can’t help but saunter out in search of more swans today. My companion and I huff and puff our way sweatily to Cookham which we are lead to believe is much nicer than skanky old Maidenhead with its down at heel shopping centres and hardly any way to get down to the river. Unfortunately, I’m dressed for mild trolling and not Yomping and soon my poor sweaty feet in their down at sole old pretend crocks are seriously protesting.

Mollified by a tasty and calorific pub lunch, we wander down some rather fetching paths. After a wayward deviation in entirely the wrong direction, at last we meet with the river.

My, my but its posh! Lots of lovely boats of a smart and expensive nature are a-bobbing about on the water. ON the river bank assorted dogs, owners and sun worshippers in various states of undress scamper, chase and loll variously. Amongst the chugging and splashing of the boats, the occasional mallard can be heard comically quacking at anything moving.

My companion, a non-swimmer is a wee bit anxious about my falling in the river. I veer dangerously and curiously close to various unsteady looking banks, whilst she admonishes my waywardness. In a determinedly disobedient doggish manner, I attempt to ignore her. Finally, we shelter under a whispering aspen tree and sit down firmly on the bank at a safe distance from any precipices.
A boat approaches. The river gurgles and swells, licking at the steep banks. I breathe quietly and call the swan, leaning my head against the sturdy aspen. The wind dances in the tree tops and they whisper like fine rain on flower petals.

It is easy to slip from the bank into the silvery rippling water. The river is cool against my naked flesh, I swim swiftly down river. I dive down underwater curious to explore the underwater world, so peaceful, green-grey and still.

Surfacing I shake water from my face and look up to find a white swan regarding me. She swims round me, as though inspecting me and then heads off down river. A few yards further on, she stops but does not look round. I take this as an invitation to follow.

We glide down the river and turn into a dark bush lined tributary. She shows me her nest in a muddy bank under an overhanging low trailing tree. I see that there are five smoothe eggs shimmering in the gloom. She settles down on the eggs and I curl up beside her and go to sleep.

She is gone. I move slowly and circle the nest. It is empty. Where are the eggs?

I’ve had a strange dream. I can’t quite remember but I am filled with dread. I fear that I’ve done a terrible thing.

I slither guiltily away as fast as I can from the nest. I slide into the water and find a muddy hole just above the water line under a bedraggled bush nearby.

But there is no hiding place. The swan soon discovers me in my muddy puddle. I curl up into a tight ball, so ashamed do I feel.

I confess to fearing I had eaten her babies. Gently she reassures me, it was all a bad dream. Her eggs are gone, but it was not I who took them. Soothed, I consent to come back with her, for I am all she has now.

A dog tears past my companion and skitters down the bank. It plunges into the water, rolls about and then pelts back up the bank, shaking water off its coat with vigorous disregard for anyone within spraying distance.

My companion has been humming quietly for some time. She sings to me the beginnings of a song about the swans. After a while we climb to our feet and walk further down the riverbank.

She has seen a swan on the other side. We sit down on a bank of clover. The swan disappears and we get up to walk back.

“Oh,” cries my friend and leads me further along the bank. Two swans have climbed onto a small beach in search of food. We sit down in front of them and begin to toss bread to them. Unhurriedly, they catch and eat until the bread is finished. They paddle about on the water’s edge for a while until first one and then the other slowly swims away.

“Uh” says my companion and informs me that she’ put her hand in a pile of poo! We fall to discussing its provenance and decide that by a process of illumination that it is swan poo and that this is a gift! I feel sure that her swan song will emerge into something even better than it already is and that when it is, the swans will really like it.

Suddenly, she leans dangerously down the bank. She presents me with a soft and fluffy if muddy swan’s feather. I stroke it gently and remember the softness of the swan I had slept beside. I put the feather away somewhere safe.

It is time to go. WE walk back along the river, diverting briefly to paddle in the water by a muddy little beach in order to cool ourselves. We eat ice creams and make our way briskly back to the station for the trains are far and few between and I have dinner with friends to eat before the night is out.


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