In spite of a desire to be there in person, the Queen's swans will have to be counted without my presence. You know how it is - sun tanning, barbequing, hanging out at the pool - the important things in life get in the way. Be that as it may, the 2014 "Swan Upping" began on Monday July 14 and will continue the entire week until Friday, July 18. What is it about that title, which sounds like swear words (at least to me)? But I digress - already.
According to the official web site of The British Monarchy, who's in the know when it comes to all things royal, the route of the swan counters includes departure from Sunbury and finishing at Abingdon, Oxfordshire. More specifically, the annual census of the swan population goes through the counties of Middlesex, Surrey, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Oxfordshire. Thinking further, that's a lot of swans to be counted. Historically, the ceremony itself dates back to the 12th century, when the Crown claimed ownership of all mute swans. Why all the interest in swans over the centuries you may well be asking. Seems that - gasp - swans were regarded as a yummy delicacy at banquets or feasts.
Nowadays, the Crown retains the right of ownership of all unmarked mute swans in open water, however, the Queen only exercises her ownership to certain stretches of the Thames. So this makes one - me - wonder the criteria for being considered the Queen's swans. Are many rejected as not acceptable?
"Oh look, Felicia. Here come the Queen's Swan markers. Fluff yourself up and look pretty!" an unmarked mute swan might tell a swan acquaintance. "Being counted by the Queen's people is very socially significant. Gives you special bragging rights."
Moving right along...
So how exactly are the swans counted, blog readers may be wondering. More to the point, how do those doing the counting know whether the swans are being counted more than once. I mean, the swans could, just to be silly, fly up ahead and be counted again...and again... But I digress.
So those involved in the operation, the Queen's Swan Marker, the Royal Swan Uppers and the Swan Uppers of the Vintners' and Dyers' livery companies, use six traditional Thames rowing skiffs (a.k.a. row boats) in their five-day journey up-river. They yell out, "all up!" when a brood of cygnets is sighted. I mean, one supposes that they could also, if they wanted but it wouldn't be culturally acceptable and most likely they wouldn't, yell "hey guys - check out the gang of swans up ahead!" Would the swans know the difference? More to the point, would they care?
Where is this all going, you may well be asking yourselves and why should we care.
As a Canadian, this is leading to an interesting thought or idea and maybe an interesting suggestion, as to the counting of our very own - wait for it - Canada geese. The geese being copious in numbers, have trans-migrated outside Canada to various geographic locations and really, somebody should do a count because...they just should. The means in which they flock together in "V" formation is something special to behold, not to mention their familiar honks as they perform fly-overs. Permission from the Canadian Prime Minister and the government would be necessary but most likely they would see this as an idea whose time has come, once the advantages of this turning into a tourist attraction would be brought to its attention. In fact, perhaps - just perhaps - the Canadian Mounties, replete with their smart red jackets, could get involved and perform the actual counting of the geese. Mounties and Canada geese - is there anything more Canadian, I ask you?
Meanwhile, the swans will have to be tallied without me being there, again. The Canada geese, however, can count on me.