Half-a-dozen mute swans heaved their wings out of the water, smacking the surface several times as their bodies lumbered into the air above the small loch at St Mary's on Orkney's East Mainland.
The pig farmer, enjoying a brief birdwatching break before heading back to Westray, felt lukewarm winter morning sunshine on the back of his neck as he watched them recover their poise and circle gracefully over the water before heading inland just above head height. . . towards the main road between St Margaret's Hope and Kirkwall.
Having watched Wolverhampton Wanderers for many years, the pig farmer has a keen nose for an impending disaster, and he didn't like the look of this at all.
The swans swooped low over the road on the Kirkwall side of the bend by the B&B, turning to head back to the lake. Five set out over the reeds that surround the loch, but the last of the six turned with the speed and agility of an Eddie Stobart truck and was straightening up just in time to make contact with the front of a builder's van heading towards the town.
Van stopped dead and swan went plummeting into the reeds. The pig farmer/birdwatcher hurried over to see what, if anything, could be done. The swan was sitting, looking a little startled (well, wouldn't you?), but obviously still alive. The pig farmer/birdwatcher/animal lover wondered whether to approach and check the damage, but he'd heard something about swans being good at kung fu (or was it jujitsu?) and he decided to wait and see.
Sure enough, after a few trial flaps, he stumbled off towards the water, barging a group of widgeon out of the way as he did so.
"He looks all right," the pig farmer/birdwatcher/animal lover/insensitive oaf called over to the van driver who had just emerged.
"Oh that's good. . . really great," he replied, leaning on the back door of the van. He sagged visibly and went a little green around the gills. "Have a look at this," he said, taking me around the front of the van where there was a lot of dent and fresh air where the windscreen and bonnet had been.
Do swans have insurance?