Moorhens, coots scattered from reeds and weeds
Cygnets glided placidly in line,shepherded by bookend parents Dragonflies darted, helicoptered in the humid July air.
Thunder threatened as I paddled downstream
Rounding a willow-hung bend, a long straight reach opened out, Deserted except for a pair of swans…
Spotting me, an instant reaction from the male
Sudden explosion of wing-thrashing, torpedo-necked fury
Rocketing straight at me, gaining speed and terrifying decibels… I swerved to avoid, digging deep with my paddle
Speed, momentum made him miss!
I arrowed on downstream. Escape my only aim.
But wrong move. The female lay ahead.
Quick glance over scared shoulder
A beating whirlwind of mean menace
A second attack – wild white weapon wings
Churning water. The battering ram head – gaping beak
And the awful noise…
One lash with my paltry paddle. Smash into the neck
Of the irate swan – and crash – I was over
Surfacing, pulse racing, cowering beside the upturned canoe
I waited, helpless, vulnerable
Swans seem to swell, seen from water-level..
I waded bank wards, shielding craft between me and the enemy, A slough of despond dragging my shoes.
I clambered out, exhausted.
My smug assailant watched, satisfied,
Great Ouse. July 2002