SIGNIFICANCE OF SWANS in “The Domino Deaths”
The swans on the River Thames have that calm aloofness, something I cherished about the Anglo-Saxons. Like people with a good Samaritan impulse.They know what they’re there for and, ignoring all interlopers, they proceed at the stately pace to do it. They are known as the Crown swans (in earlier times the Kings swans,) and everybody knows they belong to the Crown.
What I wasn’t entirely clear about until lately was Swan Upping – I knew it was a title of a famous painting by Sir Stanley Spencer, now at the Tate in London, which showed a thoroughly uncomfortable swan being tackled by somebody who clearly knew what they were doing. http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/spencer-swan-upping-at-cookham-t00525
An online search showed the full depth of the operation. Since medieval times swans have been counted and looked after by the Crown’s marker, an early attempt at ecological control. A census if you will.
I’ve always loved swans, although I have been warned they can be dangerous – those enormous flapping wings of a mother swan protecting her cygnets. Then there are generations of small girls brought up on a diet of Swan Lake Ballet, dreaming only of becoming a prima ballerina. Swans are a symbol of grace and beauty, connecting one to place and time. My own childhood effort at book publishing consisted of stamping the swan logo of Waterman’s rubber-stamp into an old notebook of my mother’s.
When you grow up in England, especially along the Thames, swans are symbolic, recognized as special, and their haunting presence surfaces in my mystery “The Domino Deaths.”
Can you trace your earliest memories of things you still love to this day? Put your comments below, and join the conversation.
For more about Swan Upping see the official site: https://www.royal.gov.uk/LatestNewsandDiary/Pressreleases/2013/SwanUpping2013.aspx