‘They’re back,’ said Brigitte, sadness and joy together in her thin voice. Last year the swans had come to symbolise so much for us. When their cygnets fell prey to dogs it had been an omen too hard to contemplate.  Within a month our unborn baby’s tiny heart had failed.

Brigitte was pregnant again. I didn’t want to watch the birds this time in case things went bad. But she became fascinated. Eventually, when the hatchlings grew strong and nearly as large as their parents I acquiesced. But I still feared some late disaster. Until the afternoon of the flight.

Brigitte called to me. ‘Dan, come quick.’ She pointed, not out to the lake, but up. The mother bird was circling at the head of the line of cygnets. Below them the father watched from the water. As they swung overhead we could hear the chatter between them. ‘They’re being taught to fly,’ said Brigitte and she hugged me so tight that I felt our baby jiggle through her t-shirt.

The birds circled twice more then descended, landing next to the male. Except one. It overshot and had to paddle back to join the group.

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