Today’s blog probably falls into the ‘mawkishly self-indulgent’ category. Hopefully I’ll manage a couple of jokes along the way, but you have been warned…
Regular readers (there are a few!) will be aware that I’ve a bit of a soft spot for duk-duks, or ‘ducklings’ as they’re more commonly known… Today’s blog was prompted by the arrival of several new duk-duks (or ‘little fluffy dumplings of love’ as they are sometimes known when both duckling and duk-duk fail to satisfy) on Holden Pond. From the looks of it, there are two new clutches (are the contents of eggs still counted in clutches after hatching or is there another collective noun? Don’t answer that – I’ve just Googled and two options are ‘fleet’ of ducklings and/or ‘brood’ of ducklings. Brood is far too gloomy a word to describe such a lovely sight but fleet sounds very apt), or (hem hem) ‘fleets’, of duk-duks doing the rounds, one a veritable armada of five + mum and dad and the other just a teensy-weensy flotilla of two + two.
The armada is lovely and very stately – quite reminiscent of Joyce Grenfell’s galleons if that’s not stretching a metaphor too far – but to be honest Daddy Duck and Mallardy Lady are looking a bit stressed, particularly as the ratio of hissing shits (Canadian Geese) has gone up again this summer and food is a bit thin on the ground. The twin flagships of the tiny flotilla, however, seem much calmer, and they and the smaller vessels bobbing in their wake a little plumper too.
Let’s hope the pike don’t get ‘em.
I’m not sure when this thing of mine with duk-duks kicked in, but I do know it is a fairly recent development. I’ve certainly never had anything against duk-duks, but I’m pretty sure that up until a year or two ago they fell more into the category of ‘take ‘em or leave ‘em’, unless they happened to be cooked and covered in a delicious sauce of some kind; preferably citrus or cherry based if served with traditional vegetables but none the worse occasionally for a dollop of hoi sin, a few slivers of spring onion and cucumber and a lightly steamed pancake. I still like eating ‘em, but I’m equally happy just watching them these days too. Not that I ever ate the really teeny ones, mind you, but the word ‘duckling’ gets applied in restaurants to some right old bruisers, and they, if you’ll excuse the pun, are fair game when push comes to shove and the tummy rumbles, ennit?
But I digress. As I was saying, I’m not entirely sure when this affection for duk-duks first surfaced, but I think I started to see them in a different light after the mad duck lady (see old blog) started to take an interest in their wellbeing and erected signs all around the pond requesting car drivers not to MURDER them while driving past. Perhaps whatever she has is catching? That said, I think she reawakened something that had lain dormant in me for many years, because with hindsight I’m pretty sure I associate them with one of my earliest and happiest memories of TV; a series of short, black and white films made by Oliver Postgate depicting the lives of The Pingwings, a family of knitted penguins who lived, inexplicably, in a barn on a farm in Sussex.
It’s fair to say that I was something of an unusual child, hyperactive before the term ADHD had ever been invented and verbally precocious, academically inconsistent and socially inept years before the term ‘High Functioning’ had ever been applied to autism or to the broader range of behaviours generally sheltering these days under the umbrella term of Asperger’s. A polite term might have been ‘a bit of a handful’, but it wasn’t one I heard often as a child, either at home or school. ‘F***ing mental’ was a term I heard quite a lot, but not, strangely, when the Pingwings were on.
I’ve no idea what it was about the Pingwings, but I do remember them distinctly – one episode in particular where they were dragging a galvanised bucket at least three times their own size across a field to fetch milk – even though I was little more than a babe in arms at the time, and I remember sitting fascinated and silent on the living-room floor watching their strange, stop-frame adventures on our tiny screened mahogany monster of a telly. I suspect this, and The Telegoons, which arrived on TV at around the same time, were pretty much the only things that kept me quiet indoors. Certainly, if my sisters are to be believed, sleep rarely hindered my wanderings and the bars and straps of cots and prams could do little to hold me in.
Decades later I was blessed with my own ‘handful’, who displayed the same Houdini-like qualities when it came to escaping cots, safety straps (ha!) and pushchairs, and I wonder now if submerged memories of Pingwings surfaced then, because even before he was born his mother and I bought him a video tape of a Little Black Duck called Dinky whose cartoon adventures were captured on celluloid even before those of the Pingwings. I’ve got to admit, Ben wasn’t generally that interested in Dinky (or any other telly for that matter until he became pretty much obsessed with Wacky Races after getting a video game for his Playstation 1), but there was one episode that was pretty much guaranteed to stop him in his tracks and that could buy me a couple of minutes if I needed to do anything important like cook dinner or have a nervous breakdown.
It was an episode where the Big Bad Wolf (they get a bad press in fairytales and stuff, don’t they?) had caught Dinky and was roasting him on a spit over an open fire. Dinky eventually escaped by blowing out the flames as he rotated above them, after which he successfully lured the BBW into the oven and incinerated him. While this action was unfolding Ben would be leaping and flapping like a good ‘un, eyes fixed to the screen as though it had locked on to his retina with some invisible sci-fi tractor beam.
I spent a whole afternoon one day transferring Dinky’s adventures to DVD (keeping the original VHS tape – so it’s a legal back up copy, thank you very much!) but he’s never watched it. Who knows, maybe one day in god knows how many decades time he’ll find himself standing by a pond watching a fleet of caramel and banana coloured duk-duks bobbing by and remembering a brave ‘Little Black Duck’ rotating on a spit and blowing on the flames. I hope so, and I hope he’ll spare a thought for the old man too, and that his memories of both will be happy ones.
If you’ve read this far, thanks for indulging me. If you bailed halfway through that’s okay too, and I hope the subject matter next time round – if there is a next time round – is more to your liking.
IN OTHER NEWS: I may not know much about art, but…
I don’t think hanging the shell of a coach over the edge of a gallery, as they have done in Bexhill, is actually art, even if it is being paid for by a celebrity. I think it’s fun, and I think it’s interesting, but if that’s all that it takes for something to be a work of art then I should have been hung in a gallery years ago (hem hem). *
The piece concerned is called ‘Hang On A Minute, Lads, I’ve Got A Great Idea’ and is inspired by the final scene of the 1969 classic movie The Italian Job, and as a cheeky homage I think it is, as the name implies, a great idea, but, sorry, I’m still not convinced of its ‘artistic’ merit.
On the other hand, if this does count as art I’m happy to jump on the bandwagon if someone is willing to pay me for it, because while I can’t draw for toffee or sculpt for fudge I am quite good at standing one thing on top of another thing. And I don’t think such art concepts should be restricted to cinema references either, so having looked around the house I have already created my first ‘piece’ using a turd I found in the cat’s litter tray and the French titfer my son wore when playing an onion seller in last year’s skool production of Fair Stood the Wind for France. For anyone interested, I want just five grand (ono) for it: It’s a cheeky homage to ‘Some Mother’s Do ‘Ave ‘Em’ and it’s called ‘Ooooh Betty, the Cat’s Done a Whoopsee in My Beret’.
Slightly more expensive, but incorporating the work of Damien Hirst, I also plan to place a ship in a bottle on top of Damien’s The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living and call it ‘We’re gonna need a bigger boat’ in homage to the Steven Spielberg classic Jaws… That’ll set you back whatever the Hirst costs, plus a couple of grand to me for the ship in a bottle and the concept. A bargain, I’m sure you’ll agree…
*There are those, of course, who think I should be hung and would be willing to pay to see it, but I don’t think that’s quite the same thing either, and the word ‘gibbet’ is usually used rather than ‘gallery’.
Oh, just in case anyone’s wondering the title for today’s blog was inspired by a lovely big bowl of LEMON JELLY