53: Sweet or seriously stupid?

The canal is deeper and the water shallower than it looks in this photo.

Look at this happy couple smiling for the camera that records their folly. The woman is balancing on a rolled railing, her center of gravity perilously supported by this young man who does not look malicious in anyway, but his joy suggests he is not truly aware that his lady love is a mere 2-lb. push away from a 15-foot drop down a sheer cement wall to the canal floor, a fall that will be cushioned by 10-inches of water and a bed of baseball-sized stones.

I almost write: What idiots! But then I remember all the stupid things I did as a youth, things that were just as dangerous and yet did not appear so at the time to my inexperienced mind.

Even now, decades later, some memories float back to me recast in the light of a whole whack of information on innocent missteps gone horribly wrong – memories that make me gasp, slow down, think twice, turn back.*

I’ve seen this young couple since, embracing on a bench where the greatest danger is an 18″ fall on a floor of weeds, cigarette butts and dog poo. It is a yukkier prospect, fecal-matter-wise, but one from which they could race back home on their non-spinal-injured responsive legs.

*The truth is I still do stupid things sometimes, although none that involve perching over a steep drop.


71: The Savagery of Swans + Statsurday

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

ABC News: Killer Swan Cited in Chicago Man’s Drowning Death

I’m not surprised a bit to learn a bird took an active part in a man’s death. In the late 1990s I spent some time in a cast, thanks to a ferocious rooster pursuit – the rooster was after me, not the other way around. I’ll say no more about this embarrassing episode except that he started it.*

Swans: Don't mess with them. Source: Wikipedia, Japan.

Friday was windy, sending Lac Biel swans up the town’s canals in search of calmer waters. They move almost in formation, pushing up against the current sometimes in a straight line, then ride the current back to the canal mouth into Lac Biel where they turn around and start the loop all over again.

In Canada, we read much about staying away from waterfowl lest we disturb them to the point where they fail to reproduce or thrive, but I’ve always suspected that loons, ducks, geese and all the like are more resilient than that. Switzerland’s swans bear out my hypothesis.

As I made my wind-whipped walk by the canal, the only pedestrian in sight, the swans took note of me walking high above on the canal’s banks, broke off their formation and proceeded to swim alongside me, poking their bills in my direction in the same manner my labrador retrievers used to nose my hand for treats.

Orderly Republican swans to the right, more Democrat "Frank Sinatra 'I Did It My Way" swans to the left.

Had I already learned of the U.S. man’s swan-induced drowning, the theme track to the movie “Jaws” would have run in my head, but I was blithely unaware of the dangerous flock that followed me. In that way, it as though I am living in a Hitchcock horror movie.

When I lingered over a canal bridge, they gathered round as though readying for choir. I had no food and while swan’s faces do not appear configured to convey disapproval, I couldn’t help but get the feeling that I had let them down.

I’ve never seen swans up close until we came here. I always thought they were graceful elegant creatures, but up-close they are a lot like people. There’s always one in a crowd who bullies his way about, stabbing and tearing at other swans to get to the front of the flock.  Occasionally, we’ll spy one who for some reason the flock just do not like. That sad swan lingers at the fringes, pecked and pursued every time she tries to drift in to the heart of the flock. Others hang around in the thick, but they still guard their little circle of surf with an air of menace.

Nonetheless, they are lovely to look at, fun to watch as they try to take off in flight (it takes a long time, they are heavy birds) and despite the dreaded news of the man’s drowning, gather around people like puppies here in our little town.

* I was once sent flying out of my lounge chair when a loon spiked up out of the water right next to my head, triggering me to make noises that Dave said was what he imagined a person might make while being attacked by a bear.


Top country hits:  Canada, U.S., and Switzerland

Bottom country hits:  Qatar, Israel and Bulgaria

Readers from Japan:  Three

Weirdest search termNabadaba dingdong

Most read post:  Paris Food – Can you eat lambs kidney without having to sell your own has once again climbed to the top after being briefly usurped by Luscious Lucernewhich has dropped to third place, nudged out by Switzerland’s Toronto. I cannot explain any of this, except that perhaps I under-rated the world’s interest in Parisian food.

Most active time of day on this blog: 3 p.m.

Yes, he got close and his feathers were up. I have no idea what that means.

Swans are beautiful no matter how you look at them.

Fascinating only to me, possibly, but this is how much churn one swan kicked up on his start to avoid a bully-swan.

Rappelling Swiss Canals

BIEL/BIENNE, SWITZERLAND You see more of the world when you get out of your car and walk around. You may not go as many miles, but you cover much more ground, so to speak.

Swiss workers know how to have fun on the job. This man is one of a team of city workers who rappelled down a canal wall when there was a perfectly good staircase nearby. The bike was retrieved from the canal, a favorite chucking-out point for bike thieves (or maybe the bike owners themselves discard their rides in this way, perhaps fed up with the European cycling stereotype).

Today provides a good example. A deep stone-walled canal runs through our town. In the late afternoon, two city workers in a low-bed truck pulled up in the walkway by the canal (there is a roadway on one side and a walkway on the other).  Dressed in reflective orange coveralls,they unrolled a line over the canal’s 3.5-foot wrought-iron fencing, which, by the way, prevents no one over the age of three from climbing over and plunging down to an uncomfortable landing. The canal is roughly 15 to 20 feet deep at this point, so unless you took a header, you would probably survive the fall, although with some nasty deforming injuries.

They had tethered the rope to something, so that while one managed the rope, the other swung over the railing and rappelled down the canal. At least I hoped they fastened the rope to something, but in fact, it looked as if they had just looped it around the railing and the topside worker was hanging on to it while his buddy made his descent. I cannot be completely sure about this.

It should be noted that less than 30 feet away was a gate opening to a narrow set of concrete steps that the workers could have easily used. Let’s face it, rappelling is more fun than stairclimbing.

The worker reached the bottom whereupon he started plucking debris from the canal floor and chucking it in the general direction of his crew partner. The first few tosses were random and so boots, empty cans and unidentifiable flying objects landed among the strollers, which happened to include an elderly lady in a long grey coat who nearly got beaned with a shoe.

Such egregious disregard for work and public safety would get somebody in Canada fired, but this is Switzerland where if you can not dodge a few shoes now and then, you are not long for this world anyway.

I’m adding this to my list of proofs that the Swiss are a daring no-nonsense bunch whose primary goal is to get the job done on time, even if this means not getting the job done safely. Yesterday, bucket trucks and ladders lined Nidau Street (Nidaugasse) where workers strung framed Christmas lights overhead, all without benefit of redirecting the pedestrian traffic below. One slip and it would have been Christmas bulbs imbedded in skulls. That did not happen, however, and last night the streets were aglow with Christmas lights.

I would not have noticed any of this had I been speeding by in a car, but then, I also would not have been within range of flying boots and plummeting Christmas lights.