The Crazy Swan
It is an unremarkable Spring afternoon in the Norfolk Broads. The sun has just emerged from behind a large angry cloud. Rain is surely on the way. A cold wind is gusting from the North-East. The temperature is hovering somewhere in the low teens. My wife and I are walking hand in hand by the riverbank. We plan to get a quick bite to eat and maybe enjoy a glass of wine before returning home. Home is in Norfolk. I also rent a small apartment in Hampshire which is where I work. I will be heading south that evening – a drive of 180 odd miles. A journey I do every week.
We pause to watch a small motor boat slowly navigating its way up the Broad. There is a mother, father and two small children on board. They are wrapped up warmly against the cold. The younger of the two children begins to cry. My wife pulls a loaf of bread out of her bag. It is well past its sell by date and stale – but the ducks never seem to mind.
She tears off a few small chunks of the bread and tosses them into the water. Very soon we are surrounded by ducks, swans and a pair of geese. They squabble good naturedly over the morsels she throws them. A lone swan joins the melee. There is something different about this swan. All the other swans have their wings neatly folded, but this swan’s wings are partially extended. The new arrival completely ignores the food proffered, instead extending his long neck and viciously pecking at his nearest neighbour. His victim flees with the aggressor in hot pursuit. The aggressor returns to select another victim. My wife throws him a large chunk of bread. Again her offering of food is ignored. Another swan receives a spiteful pecking and is forced to make good his or her escape. The aggressor returns and a third swan soon rapidly departs the scene. This behaviour continues until we leave. There are no nests or signets nearby. A different swan is attacked each time, so this is not a power struggle or a fight for a mate between two rivals. I can see no discernible reason for this rouge swan’s conduct. I ask myself rhetorically, was this swan born crazy, or did something happen to him that made him crazy?
Driving back to my apartment in Hampshire, I stop at a service station. I need to empty my bladder and top up with petrol. I hear an angry bellow. The sound alarms me as it is more animal than human. It is a noise I can imagine a buffalo might make on receiving a gut shot from a large calibre rifle, or perhaps a cow that has not been stunned having its throat cut during the Muslim festival of Eid. A man of interminable age stands in front of a low brick wall at the front of the building. As I watch, he raises his clenched fist above his head and then smashes it down with considerable force onto the top of the wall. He reels away sideways, clearly in agony. I am sickened by what I have just witnessed. Clearly he will be in need of medical attention for multiple fractures. There is no apparent sign of an argument or fight, indeed no rational explanation for his behaviour. Two crazy swans on the same day!
The bargirl gyrates wildly in response to, but not in time with the music. The crystal meth she took earlier is taking effect. Six months ago she was looking after her baby sister and working in her father’s rice field in the Essarn. She was a good girl then. Mamasan says she will most probably be dead in six months time. Oy is not yet 20 years old!
Fon works in the same bar and has been there for three years. She is a pretty and vivacious girl. Fon has five sponsors who make regular and generous contributions to her upkeep. She is extremely popular with the customers and consistently tops the list for bar fines and lady drinks. Fon also has a deadbeat Thai boyfriend who gambles and drinks all her earnings and then beats her when she fails to meet his incessant demands for cash. When she was 15, Fon had a boyfriend whom she loved. The boyfriend disappeared when she fell pregnant. Fon no longer understands the concept of romantic love. She tells all five of her sponsors that she loves them. The depth of Fon’s love is directly proportional to the size of the monthly stipend each sponsor provides her with.
John received a generous inheritance from his uncle when he was 42 years old. He retired to Pattaya within a week of funds being released by the family solicitor. John doesn’t get out of bed before midday and then goes straight to his favourite bar for breakfast. Breakfast consists of 5 Bloody Marys after which he starts drinking. John rarely eats. He is now 47, weighs less than 120 pounds and has the same life expectancy as Oy.
Mickey also retired at 42. He left the East End of London in a hurry, with a one way ticket to Bangkok and a suit case stuffed with cash. The Metropolitan Police force issued a warrant for his arrest and an all ports alert within 24 hours of his enforced departure. Mickey now makes a good living hawking ‘get rich quick schemes’ to fellow expats. He never involves Thais in his scams and in consequence has been allowed to thrive and prosper.
Paul retired at 65. Despite a messy divorce, he still managed to retain a sizable nest egg. Lonely and without family support Paul decided to make a new life for himself in Thailand. Choosing to avoid the bar scene, Paul began internet dating. Delighted that he was no longer invisible to women, Paul met and fell in love with a middle aged woman who unbeknown to him was an ex bargirl. Paul bought her a house, some land and a car and then took out a sizable life insurance policy in her favour, which he explained would take care of her when he was gone. The ex-bargirl’s family quickly realised he was worth more to them dead than alive. One day when Paul was alone in the house, there was a break-in and robbery which apparently went wrong. Paul was found dead in the bedroom, with two gunshot wounds to the back of the head. Needless to say, the police investigations were cursory and no arrests were ever made.
It seems that Thailand’s bar scene and expat community has a disproportionately high number of crazy swans! The question is, how many of them were born crazy and how many turned crazy due to environmental factors?
Environmental factors, I reckon!