Seven(th) Swans a-Swimming

It looked like a bright day outside. The wind was loud and boisterous. It was whipping my skirt, my scarf, my hair. Stinging my eyes. Cold forehead. I wished I’d worn a hat. Leaves blew up and whirled round. It grew less and less bright as I stepped onwards, and not just because it was past three o’clock on a December afternoon.

The Swanpool swans were dabbling at the pool edge by the benches at the roadside. The seven-month-old cygnet has not yet left his parents. Each time I come down here I wonder whether he will have flown the nest yet. The reeds rustled, dry and pale, the colour of an old, damp biscuit. Everything was slightly grey in the light. Colours were washed out. Faded. Near-monochrome. Tufted ducks and coots added to the greyscale illusion. The young swan’s not-yet-orange bill and remnants of brown plumage like a sepia photograph.

Water an indefinable colour. Water the texture of an impasto oil painting, its surface stippled by the strength of the wind. Across the pool the white-tipped ripples and the swimming/floating gulls – juveniles, and winter plumage (more greyscales) – interchangeable, indistinguishable in the scene.

Across the road and the sandbar, the beach empty. More dog prints than human prints. Sign for ice cream at the cafe. The sand-and-stone line high sculpted from the recent stormy weather and flood tides. The sea flat from the offshore wind. The sea an indefinable colour. Perhaps the colour of stone. Lichen-covered stone. At the skyline the colour so close to that of the sky the horizon seems painted out. Too little sun. Too much wind. On the way home I found a big pine cone from a maritime pine, still unripe, still closed, blown far from its parent tree. Hands cold in my pockets. At least cold hands are good for making pastry. Seventh day of December: first batch of mince pies?

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