swanning around

Pair of swans on the River Avon

Once more, my head seems to be stuffed so full of cotton wool, clouds or feathers that there’s no room for a single useful or original thought.

I do have a set of rather lovely photos of swans I took recently but I think pretty much everything I’ve written that features birds, feathers or flight has already appeared on the blog at some point, so I’m lacking words to accompany the pictures.

I would have thought that swans should be inspirational and make writing easy as the adult female is a pen. These, though, seem to be mute swans.

Pair of swans on the River Avon

After much thought and time spent searching – time which could, of course, have been spent writing something new – I have unearthed a few paragraphs from the memoir-in-progress about living in Spain.

This extract is set just after we bought the house en el pueblo. There are no swans, but there are other birds of all shapes and sizes.

I began to understand the previous owner’s preoccupation with birds, but the ones I liked were not the little songbirds – though a flock of long-tailed tits is always a heart-lightening sight and it was fascinating to watch the warblers and treecreepers as they bobbed and dipped around the vine that trailed outside my study window.

The birds I loved best were the falcons and hawks, woodpeckers and golden orioles, the hoopoes with their barred wings and articulated crests like furling Spanish fans, the blue jays and their cousins – my favourite – the rabilargo: when I first saw one of these I thought it must be the local jay, but it came in a flock of fifty, each with sleek black executioner’s hood, soft beige underbelly and the most spectacular blue wings and tail, bluer even than the Iberian sky; I wasn’t too surprised to find its English name is “azure-winged magpie”.

After dark, we would hear owls in the pine copse, and every night for the whole of the month of May we were woken at 3am by a nightingale singing in the cherry tree just outside our bedroom window.

Most of those birds and the other wildlife we shared our house and land with made their way into poems, so I wonder why the birds here are so uninspiring.

Magpies and wagtails strut on the garage roofs; in the park, gulls flock on the football pitch or perch on the goal posts while wrens, titmice and finches rustle in the hedges; there can be nothing more breath taking than seeing the swans fly overhead, unless perhaps the day a sparrow hawk took down its prey within a couple of feet of me as I crossed the road. And yet hardly any of these has made it into any kind of creative writing.

Perhaps now I’ve named them here I can think of this as the very earliest of drafts. I hope that my subconscious will now start working busily out of sight – like the swans, which glide so serenely on the water but are paddling like billy-o underneath.

Swan on the River Avon

Author: don't confuse the narrator

Exploring the boundary between writer and narrator through first person poetry, prose and opinion

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