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Swan upping new year


I usually post a picture of the last light of the year on New Year’s Eve, but there wasn’t much of it today. Instead, I offer you these swans, which I photographed as I walked into town to buy a loaf of bread. (Get me! I’m olde worlde!).

The field across the road is sown in rape (it’s a cinch nobody consulted a PR before naming it “rape”, isn’t it?) and for several weeks, the new crop has been home to a flock of swans. Mute swans. Cygnus olor. Dozens and dozens of them. I don’t know why the farmer doesn’t shoo them off; perhaps foraging swans are protected.

Wild, unmarked mute swans have been the property of the crown since the 12th Century, but Her Maj only claims the ones on the Thames these days. She graciously shares ownership with the Companies of Vintners and Dyers. Once a year, the Queen’s Swan Marker and the Swan Uppers of the Vintners and Dyers dress up in little red suits, climb into six little red skiffs and spend five days rowing the Thames upping swans.

How dost up a swan? Carefully, I prithee! Ho ho ho!

Swan upping: the Worshipful Company of etcetera paddle about on the river, shout “all up!” when they spot a brood of baby swans, circle the boats, lift the cygnets out of the water, weigh them, check them, tag them, count them and let them go again. When this gay party passes Windsor Castle, they stand up in the boats, raise oars, and salute Her Majesty, Queen of the Swans.

Weasel doesn’t make this shit up, you know.

As luck would have it, the bottle of shampoo next up in the booze rotation was my favorite. And it’s kosher! Soon, my beauty. Happy New Year, y’all!

December 31, 2008 — 6:21 pm
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