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Zoe Mulford: Postcards (Blog)

Songwriting Stalled by Geese

Posted on May 24, 2010 with 0 comments


I am writing a commissioned song for a conference. I’ve never done this before, but I do have previous experience of writing on a deadline. One of the best ways to get writing to happen seems to be walking, so I’ve been doing that. Once the feet are moving steadily, lyrics start showing up.

I’ve been telling myself for several days that what I really needed to do was walk out along the canal to Salford Quays. It’s an ideal route for thinking: no distracting shops, no street crossings, no choices about which route to take. It’s a straight, narrow path with the canal on one side and a wall on the other. You just point yourself in one direction and go.

What I didn’t consider before I started is that it is gosling season. I hadn’t gotten far when I encountered a pair of Canada geese with four fuzzy yellow offspring, busily rootling in the greenery next to the path. I stopped to appreciate the cuteness. When I started walking again, the nearer adult goose hissed at me, showing off its pink tongue. Rather than press the issue, I waited for the whole family to wander past me at their own pace.

I passed under a bridge and ran into another pair of geese and five more goslings. More hissing. I tried walking past at a steady rate. One of the adults stuck its neck out aggressively and backed me up against the wall. I waited. The goslings nibbled the weeds. The midges found me and started biting. The song continued to not be written. The guardian parent hissed every time I moved, but seemed completely unconcerned when one of the goslings toddled up to forage around my feet. (I believe in the natural world, small animals that behave like this are commonly known as Lunch.) Eventually, moving slowly and pressed up against the wall, I managed to ease past the geese and keep going.

The next stretch of path went over a narrow ramp with a handrail. Padding toward me down the ramp was another pair with a brood of nine. I despaired.

Five standoffs later, I crossed the bridge over to the Manchester ship canal and had a better time of it. Eventually I sat and jotted down lyrics on a bench facing the water. Pairs of swans drifted by: huge, silent, white, elegantly curved - and, best of all, a long way away.