Monday, November 22, 2004

Pavlov's ducks

I took the camera on my run the other day, just to see what I would capture. All it taught me was that you can plan all you like in life, but you can't faithfully predict what will happen.

I was running along a footpath by a lake. The other side of the water sports one of those massive old castles-cum-stately homes with sprawling swan-infested lawns, turrets, flying buttresses, short everything that you might need to defend yourself if dragons were to suddenly infest the piddly little hills around London or if we were to expect a Norman invasion wielding trebuchets and archers. It's now used as a crown court and really can be a very pretty building from some angles, in some light, if you have a penchant for that kind of thing...and if you squint.

So my plan was to take a photo of the building. I stopped and pulled the camera out of it's case, pressed the 'on' button and looked up to judge my shot.

Suddenly from below, I heard an almighty, braying, drawn-out 'Honk!'.

It was a swan the size of a small car and it evidently thought that I needed some critical direction. Out of the corner of my eye, I discerned other movement. As my gaze travelled up the length of the lake to my right, I saw all manner of ducks, geese and swans suddenly - as if on cue - turn toward me and start paddling as quickly as their little webbed stilts would let them.

It was a formiddable force and it knew it wanted one thing - complete dominance and control of any baked goods I may have with me.

Unfortunately for them, I don't run with bread rolls. I don't even eat them.

Not waiting to find what would happen if this battallion were suddenly dissappointed, I took my shot - of them instead of the building - and ran off...toward them down the footpath, passing them as they glided to a stop and followed me with deadly, beady little black eyes.

It was a narrow escape.


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