Swans are possibly the most terrifying creatures on this planet. They have a snake for a neck and large crazy wings which they use to intimidate anything that looks at their evil red eyes the wrong way. Australia is mostly about them black swans. Ballarat is ALL about them. When Napoleon originally came to Victoria (before the Brits claimed it and called it Victoria) he found black swans, which he successfully took home for his wife. What a gift! I mean, after months at sea, I'm sure the swans got off that ship like 'yeah, had a pleasant journey, so pleased to be here'. I'm sure it was a romantic exchange, like, 'here dear wifey Josephine, pls accept this gift of the devil incarnated as a bird.' All I can imagine is Napoleon being like 'pls don't be mad' and then an oblivion gate opening up and the swans coming out with their ruby red eyes, blood still dripping from their beaks and her looking at him with flat disapproval as they reign terror down on the surrounding crowd. Her words 'this is why you can't have nice things, Napoleon,' the only thing audible over the screeching death cries.
Clearly, I'm afraid of swans.
Sentimental, sure. But afraid.
So naturally, as I do, one day I turned to my sister and said that I had an idea. 'Let's go out on the lake on a giant inflatable black swan,' I said. 'It will be fun,' I said. Actually, I didn't. I just said the first bit and she thought for a minute and shrugged and agreed.
Then peeps were like, 'you know there's leeches in the lake?' This interested me for two reasons. Legit, when you're going into swan territory like the great swan of Troy, I feel that blood sucking parasites would be the least of your giant, feathery, red-eyed problems. The second reason it interested me is because I've lived in this city my entire life, everyone is cool about the Lake. The minute you say you're going to go onto the lake, every person who hears about your plan wants to tell you about leeches.
My sister and I aren't strangers to leeches. I once got one in my belly button. Related: I hate camping and I have enough experience to give the review with authenticity. Anyway, we heard about these leeches and we were like, challenge accepted. Besides, maybe they were a myth. Like the Loch Ness Monster. Ballarat's own Loch Ness Leeches. We packed salt, just in case.
So I planned my little outfit, I spent the better part of the day inflating the swan with my own lungs because I'm an idiot and I didn't get an air pump with it. Then my mate Cath arrived and pumped up the rest of it for me. For my amusement, I laughed at her at least half the time because one of the plugs is literally a swan butt hole. Then when it was fully blown up, it wouldn't fit in my car so I had to partially deflate it before going to get my sister. Then when we got to the Lake, there were no swans to be seen and we had no bread to entice them in. So we went to visit our Pa, got some bread and came back for another lap of the Lake, which is where we came across a little swan family hanging out.
We got out and prepped for the photos, I sort of gracefully navigated the process of getting on to the inflatable swan. The swans were sceptical at first. I gave them little pieces of bread until they came to hang out and also to distract them from the fact that I was probably the most threatening looking threat they had every bullied in their entire swanny lives. It was also windy, so I kept blowing away. My sister kept getting really bold and would try to push me out and away from the edge into the water. This was also terrifying because I found it rather easy to imagine the resulting call to my mate Cam in the SES who would then have to come out into the centre of the lake on a boat to rescue some silly girl in bathers who is stuck out on the water on a giant, inflatable, black swan. Imagine explaining that one. Fortunately for me, the wind kept pushing me back to shore.
At dusk on a weeknight, there are, of course, many local residents around the Lake. They would often get right up beside us and realise the strangeness of what they were looking at and then start laughing. I'd give them a casual 'evening,' as though everyone in Ballarat has an inflatable swan that they just bring out to hang out with the Lake swans. A few people took photos of me. Which is always weird. Like, that never stops being weird. Even when you're doing something weird. When someone else takes a photo of me I always feel like, 'oh, this is happening. Right. Um. Should I smile? I don't know. Do people smile when random strangers take their picture? Should I say hello? Do I just pretend I haven't noticed? But I have now, and if I don't do something it will look like I noticed but then acted like I think people should be taking photos like I'm some sort of narcissist. Maybe I should impersonate swan noises. Wait. They've gone now. Was it the swan noises?'
After a while hanging out with the swans, they started following me around, even when I ran out of food. Then another swan approached and the two adult swans tried to chase it off. When it didn't go away, the scene quickly turned into the equivalent of a swan martial arts film. Two swans had latched on to the base of each others' neck and they were beating each other with their wings. It was brutal.
Then when my sister tried to help me out, the swans got all protective of me and got out of the water and postured at her to get her to back off. Luckily, this is a small town, and someone from work was passing and came over to give me a hand getting off the inflatable swan.
Swimmers: Bikiniboo via Etsy
Swan: Sunny Life Australia c/o the amazing Lark
Location: Wendouree Lake
Photos: The Goldfield Girl