He appeared one morning, after a particularly stormy night. We’d been lying awake listening to the wind and rain and wondering how many more roof tiles might slip. Not that it was our problem: one of the benefits of living in a rented cottage, as we were at the time. But when I pushed back the curtains in the morning there he was, standing on the far side of the lake.
The resident geese were all lined up in the water and facing him head on. As was usual in such circumstances, Churchill led from the back. It was one of his heavies, Butch or Sundance, who would occasional paddle forward, menacingly, from the front line. Each time they did this Clooney would take a step back. These geese did not do “Welcome”.
Clooney stuck it out. He would give them a wide berth, but he didn’t fly off. He often stood with his head tilted over to one side and it wasn’t until he ventured close to the cottage one day that I discovered why. Clooney only had one eye. (I didn’t know this when I christened him George, honest!) Perhaps, with his poor eyesight, Clooney got separated from the rest of his flock and had been forced to land in the storm.
At feeding time, predictably enough, Clooney was shown the door.
But as the days went by, things settled into an edgy routine. Clooney would wait patiently under the horse chestnut tree while the rest of the geese got their corn. Because there, under the tree, I then gave him a little pile of his own. Feeding time became a long drawn out affair. I had to stand for several minutes between Clooney and the rest, otherwise they would creep up on his blind side and try to steal his meal.
Each evening the geese would then march past the cottage on a wrecking mission to the barn. Or on a raid of the chicken house, in case that should prove more fruitful. Clooney would follow, a customary 20 feet or so behind. Sometimes he would stop outside the cottage door while the others went on their way and, being the soft touch that I am, I would give him a little extra bit of corn.
It didn’t take the geese long to catch on. Clooney became a stooge. The main body of geese would go strutting past the cottage as usual but then pause in their journey just beyond the far wall. And wait. The second I stepped out of the kitchen with Clooney’s corn the ambush was complete. They came charging around the corner at both of us, a flurry of wings and indignant squawks.
I often wonder what subsequent tenants must have thought. Ducks waddling into the kitchen and leaving a whoopsie on the floor. Geese eyeballing them through the windows and rattling their beaks on the door. And a one-eyed Canada goose, standing on the doormat and refusing to leave.
I do hope they didn’t mind.