Now Goosey is getting more than a little upset because he has learned that I intend writing about Hissing Sid. His beak is well and truly out of joint – he is hissing and strutting by my legs as I sit at the computer. I suppose I will have to placate him with some of his favourite chocolate biscuits before I can continue
All is peaceful now ….
The lake, Millbrook, Cornwall
I was living in Cornwall in the West of England before I met and married George – in fact I lived there for 23 years so it really felt like home. Even more so because I used to spend my school summer holidays with my uncle and his family so had fond memories of the place. The lake shown above used to be tidal and on Spring tides it would flood the village. I never saw it flooded when I was young but a girl I worked with in Plymouth told me she remembered being taken to the ferry by her father carried by piggyback! Indeed the cottage I bought had slots for the flood boards on the front door. The ferry to Plymouth used to call at Millbrook and, when I was a girl, the ferry captain would very often call me up to his eyrie and allow me to steer the boat across the Sound to Plymouth.
I suppose the villagers had enough of the flooding and in the 1960s, I think, a dam was built across the river turning the water in Millbrook into a lake – the other side of the dam was tidal.
Hissing Sid was the villagers` name for the swan who lived with his mate on the lake. He was of uncertain age and temperament.
I used to walk Jamie-Dog along the banks of the lake and usually took along some bread to feed Sid, his mate and offspring. Jamie did not like that! Sid didn`t like Jame – me? I was in the middle. Jamie was on his lead but he would pull and tug to try and get each piece of stale bread before the swan could gobble it up. Sid would live up to his name and hiss loudly. It was not unknown for him to take out his distemper by pecking my toes (summer time and sandals – you get the idea – ouch again!). I complained about this to one of my friends who said casually `Oh don`t take any of Sid`s nonsense – just tap him around the beak`. What!!!!!!!!!!! It took me some time to pluck up courage to do this but when I did and, believe me it was only a gentle tap, Sid backed off and behaved himself.
As I said above, the villagers were all very concerned in the swans` welfare – I remember once occasion when that year`s cygnets were not thriving and kept falling down, I followed the advice of the RSPCA (animal charity) and scooped the cygnets up into a cardboard box one by one and took them back to my cottage – all the while followed by their grieving mother (thank goodness Sid wasn`t about) who, I swear, had tears rolling down her cheeks. I took them to the animal charity in Plymouth by car who treated them for some vitamen deficiency and returned them to the lake.
As the cygnets grew up Sid would make sure that they knew who was boss and, when the time came, each cygnet would be chased over the dam to make their own way in the world. Of course they returned, time after time, but each time Sid would chase them off again until they eventually got the message. They had grown up and had to make way for the next season`s cygnets.
One day when I came home from work, the village was buzzing with excitement. Hissing Sid had flown onto the roof of a repair garage and couldn`t get down again (he was getting old). The owner of the garage did not more than put a ladder against the wall and climbed up onto the roof, grabbed Sid and proceeded to make his way down the ladder to safety. What bravery. I spoke to the man in question and told him how brave he was `Were you not worried about grabbing hold of Sid?` I asked, knowing that one thrash of an adult swan`s wing could break a man`s leg `No`, he replied with typical Cornish reticence, `I was only worried that he would poop down me jumper`.