Here’s the story: It’s January when Ritchie turns up in the half-frozen pond at the heart of my tiny little Bavarian village, right across from my Mum’s place. Nobody knows where he came from or how he got there.
There’ve been ducks in that pond, water voles, carp, mosquitoes galore, but never ever a swan. Ritchie’s not even a swan, not yet anyway, he’s just a cygnet. It’s still winter and kids hurl snowballs at him, only to be told off by the neighbours who watch over his wellbeing 24/7.
Over the ensuing months, the ugly duckling turns into a beautiful big white bruiser, helped along by processions of people tossing him bread and table scraps.
Ducks keep dropping by, but they don’t hang around. Ritchie owns the pond now. He’s all by himself, a regal and lonesome presence gliding over the pond’s silvery green surface.
He likes it when people visit, he follows them round the water’s edge as they walk by. They talk to him. He enjoys their company. He enjoys it even more when they get the bread bag out. That may be part of his predicament – he’s too heavy to fly. People say they’ve watched him trying to take off, but without success. The pond, apparently, is too small to serve as a launch pad for fowl of his calibre. Other eyewitnesses report that he does take flight on occasions, but fails to gain sufficient height to clear fences, trees and other obstacles.
Once he goes missing for three days. A search party is launched, and he’s found, in a tiny little frog pool at the bottom of somebody’s backgarden. The whole village breathes a sigh of relief.
I met Ritchie for the first time last Thursday. It’s my first family visit since Christmas. I took these pictures:
The above is the last photo taken of Ritchie… since Sunday, he’s disappeared without a trace. It’s been six days! It’s a mystery. Everybody is worried. People still turn up at the pond every day, but now there’s nothing to feed but fat carp.