Thursday, 21 June 2007

Goodbye and hello

I have both sad and happy news to impart today. I had better get the sad bit over with. My Uncle Ben died this afternoon ‘down under’ in Perth, Australia. He was in his nineties and had a stroke on Monday. Once in hospital they found he had pneumonia and from then on it was just administer morphine and wait until the inevitable happened.

My uncle was one of the original ‘Poms’ who moved with his family to Australia in the 1960s. He visited us in the UK every two years or so and I remember long childhood summer holidays when Uncle Ben and Auntie Vi visited and took my sister and I everywhere with them while Mum and Dad were at work.

His last visit was a few years ago when he was in his late eighties. He was fit and vigorous, a regular golf player, who loved walking his beloved boxer dog. We marvelled at photographs of his garden, complete with lemon trees and flocks of budgerigars. When he left he hugged me hard. We both knew that it was probably the last time we would see each other and I was very choked at the time.

I never found the time or money or courage to fly that far, so I never visited him in Australia. As Mum said when she came in with the news of her brother’s death, “It feels like the end of an era”. But, oddly, nothing will change really. He is no more distant, wherever he is now, than he was when he was ‘down under’. I just have to remember not to send his birthday and Christmas cards now, which is sad.

The happy news is the arrival of our six little ducklings. They are tucked up safe and warm in the old chicken coop while the duck quarters are rebuilt. They spent their first day out in the chicken run, but when dusk fell the little blighters nipped out through a hole in the side of the pen and went to roost in a pile of old sticks. The sticks are waist deep in nettles, so muggins had to wade in, getting stung to billy-o.

I yelped for help and Mum came heroically to the rescue and immediately caught four of them. Luckily they don’t struggle when captured; once you have got so much as a baby feather, you’ve got the whole duckling. The other two were much further jammed into the sticks and dusk was falling, so Mum went off to fetch Marigold gloves and a torch.

Meanwhile I remained peering through the thicket of nettles into the sticks, bending over with my hands resting on the floor. The next thing I knew one of the two remaining fugitives backed quietly out of the sticks and into my hands. Number six was unearthed moments later by torchlight and put to bed. With chickens this exercise would have been noisy with cackling, screeching and swearing from all parties. With ducklings it was just fun. They don’t struggle, they don’t screech, they haven’t learned to quack yet, so there was much gentle “peeping”, and once you’ve got them they don’t flap or peck. They are pure delight.

Yesterday they had a spell in a much stronger pen, but Brian found he couldn’t reach in to get them out at night, so the little duckies were deftly, but rather unceremoniously, netted with a crab fishing net and popped into bed.

Last Saturday’s garden open day was reasonably successful. The sun shone and we had a steady stream of visitors. Our hosts were able to play Lord and Lady of the Manor and greet the visitors and guide them around their lovely garden. I remained in the kitchen (my rightful place!) with the chairman of the Cylch serving tea and Welsh cakes. We made a grand total of £281.50 which is not bad for an afternoon’s work.

Last night we had book club, but only three were able to attend. A month ago we had a rush of blood to the head and plumped for “How to Look Good Naked” by Gok Wan. Not the most literary of choices, but sometimes a bit of light relief is what is needed. It certainly made for some lively discussion! This month we’re going to read “Diary of an Ordinary Woman” by Margaret Forster. Now, I wonder where I got the idea for that one from...?


  1. Sorry about your uncle. A lot of my family were £10 poms but they went out just after the 2nd world war. Ducklings are so cute.

  2. Trouble is with ducks get hooked! says she with two on the doorstep watching every move! They are more 'knowing' than thing you will be catting away in Pekin or whatever... so sorry about your uncle.

  3. Sorry about your Uncle Ben. My great Uncle Billy went out in the sixties too. The ducklings sound adorable.

  4. sad and good, as you say. your ducklings look lovely. i went to visit my chickens yesterday, gettingready to leave their mum and come and live with us.

  5. Sad to lose your uncle - that generation just seemed so stalwart. Your ducklings are darling! We have no ducklings this year, but lots of chicks. The Great Dane is outside penning in part of the chicken yard as I write. The chicks are big enough to be out of the coop now, but not big enough for the wide world. I imagine they'll be so happy to run outside in the dirt!

  6. Sad about your uncle but a joy to see the ducklings. I am really excited about getting some. Yestrday the brook that runs behind our house was very full and fast and all the wild ducks had holed up next door. It was great to see them I really wished our garden backed on to it so they could have come here,

    Found the blog on shyness incredibly interesting.

  7. Why haven't I been reading this? How am I missing all this - your blog is right up my street, so to speak.

    And the sausage pasta sauce recipe on the other blog sounds great - am going to try that on my boy (7), in fact, if I let him help make it that might work nicely...

  8. Sorry to hear about Ben.... I adore Boxer dogs....we were given ours as a wedding present and he was beyond gorgeous. My adopted father used to say that when he died he sincerely hoped that all his dogs would be there to greet him. I said what about the people and he said he wasn't that bothered about them, but he'd like to see the dogs. Wonder if Uncle Ben and his boxer are wandering along somewhere?
    I don't get chickens (sorry all) but I do LOVE ducks and always wanted them. Indian runners my absolute favourites....but any are good. Adrian sees them as confit. jack sees them as fair game. So no ducks for me.

  9. The ducklings are gorgeous but sad news about your uncle. We had hoped to get over to your open garden event but Tom had to deliver some paintings.
    PS Thanks for the support.


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