Family of swans at Lisbane


“I know who you are, and I’m never wrong
I believe you’re nothing if you think that you are someone
Just try and realize that you don’t have to lie
Everybody’s trying to live just one day at a time”

  • Jake Bugg

When all of this is over what I’ll be grateful for and cherish most are all the extra family meals we’ve had due to Jake and Robyn being here rather than away at college. There have been special nights at the kitchen table that have lasted until 3 or 4 am when we are quite sure that we solved all of the worlds problems, and really should have written them down, and there have been regular evenings when we simply sat together for an hour or so and chatted about our day, munched on garlic bread, devoured Jake’s lasagne and drank copious cups of proper decent tea.

We have lasagne with side salad, coleslaw, chips and garlic bread, because the first time I ever had it, in Murphy Doodles on Suffolk St. in that Dublin with Paul and Micky McCormick, that’s the way they served it and I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.

We talk about everything and nothing.

“The Swan family are separating.” I said on Tuesday evening.

“Ahhh, that’s sad.” Robyn said.

“Who are the Swans ?” My Soulmate asked.

“The Swans !” I said jerking my thumb at the kitchen window.

“You mean the swans at the lake ? “ she laughed.

“Of course, what did you think I meant ?”

“We thought you were talking about a real family that were splitting up.” Elliott said.

“They are a real family !” I argued.

“A HUMAN family !” Jake interjected.

“Oh, I see.”

We’ve lived in this house for 17 years now and we’ve had a family of swans for company for every one of them. I’m assuming it’s the same family, probably in the same way the swans assume that we’re the same when they return each year. They have seemed a lot braver this year , waddling almost as far as our gate from the lake. They are a family of four, Mr.Swan, Mrs.Swan, Ermintrude , and Dougal. Ermintrude and Dougal have lost nearly all of their brown cygnet feathers and are now foraging in ‘our’ field and swimming in ‘our’ lake, while Mum and Dad have moved to Chrissy & Shauna’s field and lake next door. Yes,, we have lots of lakes in Lisbane, the place is littered with them.

The only other time I recall paying this much attention to the swans on our lake was maybe 10 years ago. It was a sunny Saturday and I was mutilating the beech hedge out the back and stopped to get a drink of water when I heard shouting coming from somewhere in the distance. It wasn’t milking time so it wasn’t Kieran, or Hilda, roaring encouragement at the cows to get up the road. I wandered around the front and could hear that the shouts were coming from the lake. I went over to the gate and couldn’t believe what I was seeing , a group of teenage lads were at the far end of the lake throwing stones and branches at the family of 5 swans trying to force them apart. 

“HEEEYYYY !” I bellowed.

They stopped. They were about 100 metres away from me. They looked at each other, dropped any stones or branches they held and then started walking slowly towards me. I was incandescent with rage…or had been …it was slowly ebbing away the closer they got. I’m not really into confrontation. OK, yes,, I’m a big scaredy cat. But this senselessness was too much. I was still angry enough to hold my ground. When they got closer I could see that they were all 16 or 17 and I was pretty sure I recognised one of them. Thankfully they looked embarrassed when they got to the gate.

One of them , the one I thought I recognised, started to say that they were only messing.

“Stop. I don’t want to hear it. What the hell did you think you were doing ? It’s a criminal  offence to harm swans..”

“But we were…” he interrupted.

“Shut the fuck up !” I was incandescent again. They looked shocked. They probably only knew me from doing the readings at mass, yes,, we all went to mass then, it was 10 years ago, do keep up.

“You’re lucky I didn’t call the Guards.”

One of the others looked as if he was about to say something, I glared at him and he decided against it.

“I don’t want to see you in that field or near that lake again. There’s 5 swans there. If there’s any less than 5 swans there for the next year I’m going to your parents, after I’ve been to the Guards.”

One of them started to smile.

I raised my hand and pointed straight at the one I thought I recognised “ You know I know your Dad. If I phoned him now and told him  where you were and what you were doing he’d skin you alive.”

They all looked at their feet again.

“Now fuck off !”

I stood to one side to let them climb over the gate and waited on the road until they’d walked back towards the village. It was only when I turned back to the house that I noticed  my right hand was trembling. And not just trembling a bit, a lot. I don’t know if it had been doing that the whole time I was giving out to them. I walked into the kitchen and drank a pint of water, using both hands to hold the glass. I think it took a good hour to calm down.

I don’t think I’ve ever been that angry in front of anyone before…or since. I’ve certainly never pointed at anyone like that, or cursed like that. Please God, I’ll never have to again.

                 I never mentioned it to any of their parents, because it turned out that I didn’t actually know who any of them were, then. I know who they all are now, fine fellas, decent lads, one plays county, one’s a teacher.

It’s funny but I hadn’t thought of that day until just now when I started writing about Tuesday’s lasagne.

Mr. and Mrs.Swan will soon say goodbye to Ermintrude and Dougal, they will go off to make their own way, find their own partner, their own lake.

 Maybe they’ll come back for lasagne occasionally…

They’ll always be welcome…

“Are we still talking about swans ?”

No ! Yes…Jeez I don’t know any more. Pass those tissues….yes…the Mansize ones….



P.S. This is ‘All I Need

Author: paul

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