Once I had a canine friend, who, through no fault of his own, was scheduled for execution by the local pound. I was not privy to the ins and outs but I knew the pound were supposed to send someone to pick him up. The days went by. Every time saw him, I would stop, sit with him, sink my hand into his coarse fur, my heart heavy, my eyes to the cruel sky and try to effect a proper goodbye, convinced I would never see him again. The next time I passed there he would be. Still. After about three days of emotional goodbyes my nerves were wearing a bit thin. His owners, no doubt feeling the same way, if not worse, took the matter into their own hands and brought him to the pound after which we could all get on with our grieving in peace.
I am starting to feel the same about the swallows.
Once people used to think swallows spent the Winter under water. This came about as they were often seen entering reed beds in search of insects in the evenings and not seen emerging. Reed cutters would occasionally find a dead one in the water and as, back in the day, there wasn’t much time for standing around keeping tabs on swallows, it was a quick leap to supposing them to be aquatic. Watching them fly with their round heads like helmets and their wings tight to their sides as they dive it would be easy to imagine them bombing along like torpedoes under the surface.
Speaking of round heads I once heard of a person nicknamed Swallow. Some thought it was because of his obviously round head. Others claimed it came about in school when he was asked to write an essay on swallows. I imagine him, tongue visible between pursed lips, as he wrote painstakingly, Bic biro digging into the lined copy book,
The swallow is a migratory bird.
It was at this point, not being a studious child, he came to a dead stop. After wracking his brains for a while he decided he could only write what he knew and finished his two line “essay” in the colloquial…
He have a roundy head.
For the last few weeks the swallows have been gathering, performing aeronautics in the sky about my house, hoovering up insects for the journey or to feed the demanding young perched impatiently on my aerial or preening, stretching and lifting weights on the telegraph wire above my house. I shot some great pictures and got to know them better than I had before.
The young have shorter tails than the adults and often tussle with each other as they perch. They screech as their parents, looking distinctly and increasingly harassed, approach with bugs. They do a lot of stretching, like yoga. They seem to talk a lot to each other. I even have a shot of an adult swallow, beak open, its wing on the shoulder of a younger one looking for all the world like it’s giving a scolding.
They are amazing fliers. I saw one get involved in a dogfight with a wagtail, who was not in the same league aeronautically. Somehow I had thought swallows were above brawling, being all foreign and sophisticated. Not this one. I imagined him screeching
“Putain!Merde!Take thet you ‘orrible leetle vagtail!”
I enjoyed it all until one day recently noticed they were there no more. Thinking it was a bit early but relieved at finally being able to get to grips with the drama of abandonment I thought, with hand to brow to shield myself metaphorically from the approaching winter…
“Ah goodbye dear swallows!Adieu!”
So I was put out to be accosted by a gang of them on my evening walk.
And so the days go.
“They’re back! “
In recent days I have started becoming impatient and little less sentimental.
Go. So we can start looking forward to the day when you come back again.