Kate and I walked down to a small gate that led onto the embankment. Feeding ducks or swans had become one of those things we did together when we were in England.
“They’re owned by the Queen, you know.”
A squat little girl with a suspicious look had sidled up close to us. Her red socks were rumpled and she wore a PVC rain mac over a print dress.
“Which ones are the Queen’s?” I asked, trying to be friendly.
“They are all owned by the Queen. Every one,” the girl said, darkly.
“If you kill one of them, the penalty is death!” The child pronounced “death” as in “deaf.”
Kate gazed anxiously at the girl. I told her to carry on feeding the swans.
“Well, we’ll be sure not kill any, just feed them, alright?”
“I suppose—” The sullen girl began kicking pebbles into the water.
“Do you want some bread?” asked Kate.
The child shook her head, then turned and walked away. Odd. Kate shrugged and carried on throwing brioche at the birds.