The relentless North wind has been blowing for several days. It is now early morning and still bitterly cold. Mister Jack Frost has been busy overnight and everywhere is a bright sparkling white. The outline of trees stand out in silhouette. Every branch and twig is dressed in glitter. The puddles along the riverside path are covered with ice and now snow has been forecast. The whole white picture is split in two by the meandering river Wissey which is black in contrast. The river looks lifeless and uninviting and you imagine it to be completely void of fish. This is far from true. The fish are certainly there but they have little interest in anything and least of all the fisherman's bait!
It is here that the river is at its widest and a colony of geese are afloat. They have just been joined by more of their kind and the welcome was most unfriendly. Now geese are seldom quiet but today there is an endless uproar with splashing and honking. For whatever reason they are restless and irksome and seem eager to prompt trouble like naughty school children. Who knows perhaps they had little sleep and are just grumpy and tired. Formed into groups they bicker and tease and chase each other at random. Every year they take charge of this section of the river for the duration of winter and most other residents of the waterway seem afraid to challenge them. However things will soon become rather interesting for heading in their direction are others who likewise take command of the river.
A family of swans are just out of sight. At present the tall sedge of the margins hides them from view. They proceed along at their slow majestic pace. They have a natural air of elegance and superiority. Their whiteness shines and and almost glows. As etiquette dictates the male leads and the female follows with four young swans at the rear all equally spaced apart. Their procession makes its way down the centre of the river and you imagine fellow fur and feather folk standing on the river bank cheering and raising their caps as they pass by.
A friendly robin has a grandstand view from the top of a riverside fence post. With his bold red breast he looks grand and handsome. He is very independent and certainly the local dandy. He is always busy and knows everything that happens within his domain as his habit is to be everywhere! For the fisherman he is always good company and will help them watch their rods all day providing he can share a sandwich at lunchtime.
The swans appear in full view but strangely have still not been noticed. The geese are too busy squabbling and have strayed across the whole width of the river making a barrier. As they see their rivals they hiss and harass in protest but the swans show no reaction. They merely continue their course as if by clockwork. Now we have a game of nerve and dare and anyone watching must surely be holding their breath. The male swan glances behind to check his convoy is still in station and perhaps gives out final instructions. Several large geese at the forefront display their self importance and flap their wing spans and stand up high in the water. Then the two sides find themselves only feet apart and just at the moment when the first blows might be expected the geese open their ranks and allow passage for the swans to pass. The swans are now in the middle of a mass of heaving and noisy geese. Still unnerved and still only looking straight ahead they glide through and out the other side into open water. They continue on their way and soon they are out of sight. Was it a victory for anyone. Was it even a challenge. Who really knows. Most likely the geese were just being their normal difficult selves. For certain most human folk regard the swans as the Kings and Queens of the waterways and long may they reign!
The show is over and the robin breathes a sigh of relief and flies to the topmost perch of a bramble bush. He bursts into joyful song and more bird song answers. The morning begins to come alive for within a tangle of undergrowth there is a stirring. A sleepy rabbit's head appears and then another to take stock of the weather. They have to decide whether to return to the warmth of their burrow or to seek out a grassy patch to nibble. Before long both the robin and the rabbits will notice the first snow flakes of the year for only a short distance away it is already snowing. Everything is about to change and we must now be patient. For certain there will be more stories to tell.
By Ivor Hook