Foto: Geoff Robinson

It’s been ten years since the first reports came in from Cambridge. First in the local newspaper, later even in the BBC News. Reason gave an aggressive swan, who defended its precinct with everything that was available to it. Wildly beating wings, kicking big feet and a wide open beak were his weapons. Actually, the River Cam is a rather romantic water, where there is enough space for rowing boats, swimmers and water birds. But this swan saw it differently and attacks everyone who shows up in his territory. Soon he became known under the name Mr Asbo*). At first it was thought that he would take his father’s duties too seriously, because the chicks had just hatched in the nest. During this time you should be considerate and keep your distance to all animals.

The summer had long arrived, the young swans became quite independent, but Mr Asbo didn’t want to calm down. On the contrary. Meanwhile he even attacked motorboats and could become dangerous for children. Finally they caught him, brought him a good way upstream and released him there again. It wasn’t long before Mr Asbo was back in Cambridge. The show started all over again. Mr Asbo flew furiously towards every outboard engine, his feet stretched far forward and then landed in the middle of the swirling water. Observers were very concerned that his legs will be cut off at some point and so they decided on a rescue operation. The angry swan was captured again and taken to a secret place. There he was given a new identity and a second chance. This time the resettlement went well, but as soon as he was gone some people started to miss him in Cambridge. The students looked in vain for the provocateur, and even the floating friends drew their circles more and more narrow around the nest place that once belonged to Mr Asbo. Somehow they missed Old Grumpy. I guess that’s how it is in life, human or animal.

Asbaby was born last year. A grandchild of the legendary Battle Swan. Already his father, named Asboy, was noticed badly because he obviously had to suffer from an overdose of testosterone. But Asbaby, now one year old and fully grown, even outshines her ancestors. The young swan is getting up against everything that paddles on the River Cam. He grabs young geese with his beak and throws them into the air. Which caused the greatest indignation among parents and a good three dozen close relatives. They jumped at the white innocence with loud chatter. The screaming must have been deafening. As soon as Asbaby had escaped the geese, he rowed straight towards the next rowing boat and left his anger out on the tourists. Simply killing him is not possible, after all, because swans belong to the English crown. Without the Queen’s permission this would be a serious crime and would inevitably lead to life imprisonment in the Tower of London. Calming the angry swan, teaching him better manners and more English behaviour seems difficult. A local resident, who had already experienced the grandfather, takes a critical view of the situation: “Asbaby was vicious when he was young, but now that he is bigger and stronger he is even worse. He is a real bully on the river and even worse than his father and grandfather. It’s worrying as the river is getting busier now too.” I am curious how this will go on.

If you are a bit longer in London and have the opportunity for a trip, I can highly recommend the locations Cambridge and Oxford. Both are wonderful old cities with very individual character. If you don’t have a car, you can also take the train, for example from King’s Cross (Great Northern Railway) or Marylebone Station (Chiltern Railways). Unfortunately the tickets are not quite cheap.


A bad career: First Mr Asbo made a bit of nonsense, puffed himself up, stated with his power, but then he attacked tourists in a targeted way and finally he used underhanded methods. This led to isolation, he was first locked out and finally even arrested. The end of a wild life. The moral of the story: Bad behavior doesn’t pay off. And what really worries is that unsocial behavior seems to be inherited. So be careful when you choose your parents. – If I think about it correctly, it occurs to me that a few days ago there was a report in the newspaper about English river fish, which is perhaps related to the aggressive swans. There I read: ‘You can’t catch a single fish that didn’t contain any cocaine!’ The party drug has become so widespread in England that you can find the leftovers almost everywhere.



*) Why is he named ‘Mr Asbo’?

Die Abkürzung ‘ASBO’ steht für ‘Anti Social Behaviour Order’. Das ist ein englisches Gesetzt, dass schlechte Verhaltensweisen unter Strafe stellt. Wer erwischt wird muß zahlen und bekommt ein ‘ASBO’ ausgestellt. Das wiegt schwerer als die Geldstrafe, denn damit gilt man als charakterlich zweifelhaft und absolut unbritisch. Ab sofort wird man beäugt, kritisch beobachtet und spürbar ins Abseits gestellt. Also ein bißchen so, als wäre man ein deutscher Tourist, der seine schlechten Gewohnheiten ungeniert auf der Insel auslebt. Der landet auch schnell in der Isolation. Es gibt aber für Asbo Sünder eine Rettung und die funktioniert fast immer. Man zeigt tiefstes Bedauern über die schlechte Tat und verspricht künftig besser zu handeln. ‘I’ve learned my lesson’, ist das Zauberwort, dass den gesellschaftlichen Bann auf der Stelle auflöst.