FIONA LOONEY

KITCHEN SINK DRAMA

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - CONTENTS - Don’t miss Fiona Looney’s bril­liant col­umn, with her unique take on mod­ern Ire­land, only in the Ir­ish Daily Mail ev­ery Wed­nes­day.

I’ll tell you who has it sorted: swans. Now, I am no great ad­mirer of the genus Cygnus – and long­time read­ers may re­mem­ber that I once had a par­tic­u­larly vi­o­lent al­ter­ca­tion with one of their species back when The Boy was a tod­dler – but sit­ting at the kitchen ta­ble, lis­ten­ing to that erst­while tod­dler bel­low­ing for no good rea­son, it sud­denly oc­curs to me that we could learn a lot from swans.

They are nest­ing at the moment, of course – late start­ing this year be­cause of the Baltic spring. We have four pairs on our side of the park. For all my vi­o­lent per­sonal his­tory with swans, I have al­ways ad­mired the way their fe­males sit with enor­mous grace and pa­tience on their pre­cious eggs while the fa­ther – who would, by this stage of the pro­ceed­ings, be long gone in most species – pa­trols the wa­ters close by, hiss­ing at any­one who comes within arm-break­ing dis­tance of the nest. There is a cer­tain seren­ity about this time in a swan’s life cy­cle, that will shortly be re­placed by ex­tra­or­di­nary cute­ness, as the vig­i­lant par­ents show off their gor­geous, fluffy off­spring for the first time.

They will do so, at least in Ty­mon Park, to the rau­cous sound­track of a very dif­fer­ent type of mat­ing rit­ual. I ob­served this sec­ond, less mys­te­ri­ous, mat­ing dance the other day, just af­ter I’d checked the progress of the nest­ing swans. Be­side the pond, on the all-weather pitch, a dozen or so young teenage boys were play­ing foot­ball, with all of them shoot­ing into the same goal. And in­evitably, be­hind that goal, a dozen or so teenage girls stood around in small groups, all night-time make-up in day-time light, stu­diously ig­nor­ing the boys and oc­ca­sion­ally shriek­ing. I need hardly add that The Boy was one of the boys, and that, in a pre­vi­ous life, I used to be one of the girls. I watched this strangely fa­mil­iar mat­ing rit­ual for a minute or so and then, be­cause I felt like a Peep­ing Tom, I went back to try­ing to cop a look un­der a swan’s bot­tom.

But the thing is, there will be no mat­ing dance for th­ese pend­ing cygnets – or at least, it won’t hap­pen on their par­ents’ watch. And this is where you’ve got to ad­mire th­ese hand­some birds. In about nine months’ time, once their

‘Once, an ugly swan took a bit out of the Boy, for no good rea­son other than that he

was smaller’

fluffy ba­bies have be­come fully grown, grey birds, the par­ents will throw them out of their child­hood home and they will fly north, to the canal near Harold’s Cross, where they will spend two years – two years! – choos­ing a mate. The park ranger who told me about this re­ferred to that stretch of the canal as their Cop­per Face Jack’s (though frankly, I’ve never heard of any­one tak­ing two years to score in the hu­man ver­sion). Mean­while, the par­ents re­turn to the more pleas­ant part of par­ent­ing (the how’s-your-fa­ther) fol­lowed by the lengthy sit on the nest and the ar­rival of the uni­ver­sally cute cygnets. Un­til the day the young­sters stop be­ing cute, at which point, they too will be dis­patched to Cop­pers on the Canal.

Any­way, I am think­ing about all of this while The Boy is roar­ing at the top of his lungs for ab­so­lutely no rea­son. I con­fess that I hadn’t been pre­pared for this. His sis­ter’s pu­berty was a fairly low-key event, apart from a few in­ci­dents of bad be­hav­iour, quite a lot of swear­ing and a scat­ter­ing of spots. With The Boy, I’d been pre­pared for all of the above, as well as the widely doc­u­mented poor hy­giene is­sues. But I didn’t know that some­times, the hor­mones cours­ing through boys’ stretch­ing bod­ies are so over­whelm­ing that they just have to roar. Or maybe that’s just my Boy.

Once upon a time, an ugly swan took a bite out of this Boy, for no good rea­son other than that he was smaller than the swan. It was an un­savoury event that re­sulted in me at­tack­ing said swan, be­ing at­tacked back and even­tu­ally be­ing chased out of the park, Boy un­der ox­ter and Small Girl dragged af­ter, while scream­ing at the pur­su­ing swan to ‘ f*** off’. Swans and The Boy have re­garded each other with mu­tual sus­pi­cion ever since. But if a swan bel­lows on the canal, his par­ents are so far away that they can’t pos­si­bly hear it. And no swan has ever sat at his kitchen ta­ble and won­dered what the hell was go­ing on with their teenager. Maybe it’s time Boy and Swan buried the hatchet. Es­pe­cially since they’re go­ing to be spend­ing so much time to­gether.

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