Sunday, 7 October 2012

There's a swan down the river swears he's Elvis

If you take the bus down to Stockbridge and find yourself on the Water of Leith, just by the Falshaw Bridge there is a triangle of grass next to the river which has become home to a mute swan.  He is a swan out of a storybook--huge and handsome--a bird to be reckoned with.  He is also something of a celebrity hereabouts, wearing his biography in the band round one of his legs.  He was tagged when he was nothing but an ugly duckling in Falkirk, but he blew off the little town for the big city and has  been seen in all the wet places, from Portobello beach to Duddingston Loch to the pond in Inverleith Park. It seems he never settled anywhere for long...until he came to the peaceful spot next to the Falshaw Bridge, where he set up housekeeping with a duck.  No one knows quite why he spurned the community of Inverleith where there were other swans to socialise with for his quiet corner under the bridge, but there he stayed with his lady duck, having no apparent desire for birds of his feather.  

Tragically, the duck disappeared in the floods earlier this year, but the swan survived and stayed.  Nor does he show any sign of straying.  Swans, of course, are said to mate for life, but people seem surprised to see him apparently in mourning for a mallard.  

This is no surprise to me having had--not swans, but an enormous gander in the Isle of Skye, who was called ‘Jimmy the Tory’.  Jimmy had a wife named Agnes and they were a devoted couple, spending their days menacing the ankles of anyone who came out of the house, lowering their necks and swaying their heads from side to side like cobras wearing a lot of orange lipstick.  One day Agnes died and the gander went into a decline until, in desperation, a tiny khaki campbell duck was borrowed from neighbours to keep him company.  This bit of odd-couple match-making was a success--except that when Jimmy the Tory (who was no spring chicken) died, the little duck began to pine.  At this point the bidie-in duck was sent back to her home pond without so much as a golden egg to her name (she was, after all, a Campbell duck in an island densely populated by Macdonalds).  

Sadly, the Stockbridge One looks set to end his days in lonely devotion to his lost duck, though I cannot say that he is exactly wasting away.  In the same way that neighbours used to bring casseroles to a house where there has been a bereavement, the swan seems to have half the contents of Greggs chucked his way most days, making our swan less of a Prince and more of an Elvis. It is sad to see him spending his lonely days rearranging his breast feathers and no doubt worrying about the size of his beak. So if anyone knows a lady swan who isn't looking for commitment, or even a flighty Canada goose just about to pack her panniers and head south (as it seems clear our swan is a loner with a taste for the exotic so would probably like a goose who talks with a funny accent), do float her down to the Falshaw Bridge where she can cozy up to the bank, wiggle her tail feathers and ask Elvis, ‘hey buddy, are you lonesome tonight?’  


  1. This was quite an emotional read about loneliness, ageing and bereavement.(sniff)My distress was alleviated by the thought of an Elvis singing swan and I was quite uplifted by the clever humour and keen wit of this blog entry.
    Mither Goose

  2. Once again: an outstanding piece of writing. Thank you.