Duck Tales

Oh dear. Is it just me who goes out on a sunny bank holiday for a civilised drink with friends and comes home at 1am wearing a bra and their spare Hawiian garland having a booked a holiday to Florida? Yes? Thought so.

And none of the above would necessarily be an issue were it not for the fact that:

  1. It is now no longer a bank holiday.
  2. It was my long suffering partner who had to come and scrape me off the bank holiday floor.
  3. Said long suffering partner is a GP who has to go and be responsible for people’s lives in the morning.

You may imagine my current popularity.

It’s all so unfortunate because I always MEAN WELL. I’d taken all the necessary precautions. I’d tidied and cleaned the house, I’d organised dinner, I’d informed my children, I’d sorted the horse out. What had escaped me was the fact that I’d left the rabbits in their run outside, our ducklings in theirs and today is a busy day when the Spanish tutor is coming round and then we’re going to meet the ‘buddy’ of my daughter at her new school and her mother. As it stands at the moment I’ll be turning up in last night’s clothes doing something straight out of the Ministry of Silly Walks with a duckling under each arm. It’s bad enough catching two rabbits who are thrilled to be having a sleepover in their run, it’s quite another gathering up five evasive ducklings whilst in vino veritas. They’re sweet things though and they belong to my daughter who has entrusted them to my splendid care whilst she’s abroad.

In fact, she’s entrusted them to my care from the word go. It wasn’t meant to be like that, she was due to sit her A-Levels, take a Gap year, earn some money and then go travelling for six months when the ducks were fully grown and needed minimal input. However – enter Covid 19. Funnily enough, my daughter will also be 19 in November. Perhaps a joint birthday party? That’s written in a bitter tone, if you can’t tell.

Anyway, she’s wanted ducks for a while and I’ve been subject to many pleadings over the last few months (years). It’s gone something like:

“Can I please have ducks?”




“But I love ducks and I’ll do it all myself.”


“I’ve wanted them for ages.”


***Covid 19 tips up and destroys all plans***


“OK, fine.”

What could possibly go wrong?

I’ll start with the hatching. For those who don’t know, duckling eggs have to be lovingly incubated for 28 days or thereabouts. The incubator has to be sitting somewhere safe, the eggs will be turned every so often, you have to keep their atmosphere humid and above all you have to LEAVE THEM ALONE. I wanted to pester but I was kept at arm’s length by my daughter who had done some solid research. She bought the eggs, she sorted them out in their incubator, she worked out when they would hatch, she tidied the shed, she commissioned a duck house for said shed and all in all, she did a heck a of a lot of preparation. Slightly before they were due to hatch she had an eighteenth birthday party to go to in Cornwall (about 150 miles away). She said she was going to the party but she would come home a day early because the ducklings were due to hatch – all fine. She left on the Friday to return on the Tuesday and I was left in sole charge not having a clue about these eggs, but all I had to was water them every so often. Or so I thought. I waved her off happily on the Friday morning, content with my instructions, and later that evening I went to start my duck egg duties. The first thing that went wrong was that one of the eggs had split in half. I know this sounds ridiculous but when I saw this split-in-half egg it took me a moment to realise what this meant and to my horror I swiftly spied a tiny duck staggering about.


I stared. I panicked. This wasn’t meant to happen! I phoned my daughter, “Congratulations darling, you have a duckling. What the **** do I do now???”

“LEAVE THEM ALONE. They should all hatch together and they don’t need anything for the first 48 hours.”

“But do I need to – “


“Are you sure?”



Slightly uneasily I went to bed, expecting five tiny ducklings when I woke up, however I was disappointed when I opened my eyes– there was just the one duckling still.

“Darling, there’s still just one duckling.”


I’ve never been good at leaving things alone.

From this point onwards, I was a duck midwife, running a duck labour ward. The stress was unbelievable, I couldn’t keep away. It’s all very well being told to leave them alone but I was fascinated and petrified in equal measure. These things were precious and dearly loved already. So I pretty much sat and watched them hatch in fear – this wasn’t meant to happen!

 After the second duckling was born all the shells began to crack and it all started happening fairly swiftly. The incubator was sealed, I had one older duckling, one only-just-born-duckling, two eggs cracking with tiny beaks making an appearance and one egg stubbornly doing nothing. For some – STUPID – reason I thought this was a splendid time to move the incubator to somewhere more central where I could live my life as well as keeping an eye on the cracklings. So I unplugged it, picked it up – and DROPPED it. The horror was entire – I had half an incubator, two newborn ducklings, two cracklings and one egg, in my LAP. I didn’t know what to do, so I just sat there for a moment with the words ‘leave them alone’ on a loop in my brain. Somehow I gathered up all the bits and returned them to the incubator and made a solid pact with them that we would never mention this again.

24 hours later I had five, perfect ducklings. But it was 24 hours of zero sleep, lots of panic and even more worry. I was calmer when my children were born.

It’s all ended well though because we now have five toddler ducks who are very happy and very spoiled. And very loud. I knew they were ‘call’ ducks but what I didn’t know was how loudly they ‘call’. It isn’t the eggs that are splitting these days.

It’s my ears.    




Pigeon Pie.

Those of us with children will be used to the school calendar. You know the drill; term dates, sports fixtures, open assemblies, Choral Day, Maths Challenge week – that sort of thing. So, it came as a little surprise to me when I spied ‘Survival Training’ scheduled on ours at the beginning of the Autumn term. Survival Training? Surviving what, exactly? But it’s part of an Outdoor Challenge award and I reasoned that it couldn’t be worse than the trip she did last term as part of it, which was a brief sojourn to the Brecon Beacons. This was cheerily sold to us as two nights of camping and a just a small 20k – or so – walk. Enjoyable, no? Smaller daughter arrived back from that one soaked through, muddy, exhausted and with a high temperature. That was the low point with this Award, we reasoned.

Initially, daughter was reasonably excited about the survival training. It was only an overnight camp in the school grounds with all of her friends. What fun! What’s not to like? Well actually, possibly this:

“We have to gut and eat a pigeon, Mummy. And build our own shelters.” Gourmet and luxury indeed.

“Really?” I took this with a pinch of salt, sure that it had been Chinese-whispered into existence. I mean, honestly, getting twelve year olds to gut a pigeon and build shelters? What could possibly go wrong? Well, the potential certainly begins with my daughter who has never constructed anything in her life, much less something she has to bed down in for the night.

But, she was excited as she packed up her kit the night before. The kit list was fairly extensive, and we had to plunder the camping equipment of my partner to get everything together. The only trouble with that is my partner is a huge wild camping aficionado, and most of his camping belongings come into the ‘a ridiculous amount to spend on a tent, we could afford a luxury holiday with that’ bracket. So obviously we couldn’t tell him that we were borrowing stuff. My poor partner. Before he met me and we moved in together, he slept easily and peacefully at night, knowing that his possessions were solely his possessions and in the morning they would be where he left them. Enter me and two daughters. I mean, we don’t TRY to appropriate his belongings, but it’s just that he has the best stuff. It’s good quality and he has lots of it. He does feebly protest when one or the other of us borrow a tent, a bike, a surfboard, some jumpers, phone chargers, but three years down the line I think he’s more or less accepted that his norm has – well – disappeared. We do give it back, obviously. Unfortunately, smaller daughter has a habit of obsessively labelling everything she takes to school so what he doesn’t know is that much of his precious camping equipment has glittery pink name stickers on it. As long as he doesn’t take it out for the first time in front of anyone, it’ll be fine.

Anyway, back to the pigeons. So, she went off for this overnight camping, keen to learn the skills they need to survive, should they ever become dangerously lost in the grounds of a very nice private school. There are two patches of woodland within the grounds and they were to camp in the further away one, which must be, oh, I don’t know, 500 yards from the school building, if that? But frankly, they could have been deposited in the deepest, darkest wilderness somewhere in Wales with poo shovels, so they lucked out staying in the grounds.

“Goodbye darling!” I waved her off cheerily, “Have a good time! Enjoy the building and eating, I’m sure you’ll love it.” I say this to her with all the confidence of someone who has an actual bricks-and-mortar house to go to, with a well-stocked fridge, cosy beds and central heating.

“I will. Love you.” Car door slams and off she goes. And off I go to my well-nourished warmth.

And then of course, it’s radio silence because they aren’t allowed their phones at school. My warm day drifted into my cosy night, and my cosy night drifted into my warm morning, and I woke up pleased that it hadn’t seemed to rain much. I was looking forward to collecting her and hearing about the camping tales, but the camping was Friday night and they have Saturday school, so I had to wait until lunchtime to do this. On this particular Saturday they had to conduct tours of the school which requires them to be in their very smartest uniform, with their very neatest appearance. Quite why they chose a motley crew of white-faced, wood-smoke-smelling and generally damp children with dark black circles under their eyes and bits of twig in their hair to represent the school is beyond me. They must have looked like something out of a zombie-apocalypse-meets-Addams-family spectacle to the visitors.

We parents were all waiting, keen to see our offspring after their adventure, laughing and chatting away, and then I spot a child out of the corner of my eye, who is moving very slowly and looking very sad. Yup, you’ve guessed it, that’s my one. The minute she set her eyes on us, she flung herself into my arms and burst into tears, “I’m just sooooo tired!” she wailed (oh dear, she does need her sleep).

“Oh no, but did you enjoy it?”

“Nooo!” (Oh dear)

“What did you sleep in?”

“A thing we made out of sticks.” (Good grief…..)

“What did you actually eat?”

“There was nothing but pigeon, so I starved.” (See above)

“How many pigeons were there?”

“I don’t know, loads. They were caught for us before though.”

“There you go! It wasn’t all bad then.” (Thank heaven for small mercies…………)

She got home and then proceeded to sleep for 16 of the next 24 hours. And though I am loath to say it, and only do so through gritted teeth – I was *whispers* wrong. Wales was not the low point.


Survival training – 1

Daughter – 0


PS. I do have to add that the Outdoor Challenge Award they do is a very worthwhile and important endeavour, and the school do a jolly good job of giving the children the best experiences that they can to prepare them for the challenges of the outdoors. It is simply that my child is not really up for the challenges of the outdoors; she’s perfectly happy in her warm, lamp-lit bedroom with plenty of cushions and soft blankets. There were lots of braver children that loved the camping!


Tales from a 37 year old brain.

I know, I know, I know – I haven’t written anything for ages. It’s my brain. It’s a bit – well – a bit like me I suppose. It’s rather rebellious and doesn’t do things that it doesn’t want to. And, unlike children, I can’t shout at it to make it do things. Well, I could, but I suspect that would guarantee me a long stay parking space at the nearest asylum.

Anyway, we’re here now. Minus the bits of me that fell victim to the weekend, as usual. My brain leaps about and says “Yes! I can do two nights out in a row! I can stay up until 2am in a friend’s hot tub drinking Prosecco and feel absolutely great at 9am! And I can certainly get 2000 words written sharpish before breakfast.” And then the sad truth emerges from my actual body:

–          I am exhausted

–          I have a headache

–          I am grumpy

–          I want to sleep

–          I am devoid of inspiration

–          I NEED carbs

–          Everything is going to take four times as long as usual today

–          So it probably won’t get done

I am not 21 anymore. I am not even 31 anymore. I’m 37 and I need to remember that and especially for weekends like our last one, body and brain took a bit of a battering.  We flew to Ireland, for a wedding, and it was St Patrick’s Day. Except the place that we stayed at for the wedding was a 5* castle which was a bit too grand, really, to acknowledge the day – so, in generosity, we lent it a hand instead.

Personally, I began ‘celebrating’ at lunchtime on Friday. As anyone who knows me will testify – I don’t fly well. At all. I am petrified of the bloody things groaning their improbable way into the sky and I simply do not understand how they get up there and – perhaps more importantly – STAY up there with no visible means of support. The sum total of this means that I take a few mg of diazepam before the flight, to keep me calm and controlled. That’s the idea anyway, it doesn’t always happen like that (insert guilty emoji face here).

In fact, the flight we took back from Spain in the summer went so badly that my partner and both of my daughters refused to fly with me again. I think I drank a bit too much wine, pre-flight, out of sheer terror. Certainly, by the time I boarded the plane, there was still a bit too much blood in my alcohol system as far as I was concerned. Partner and younger daughter headed straight to their seats, and my eldest was left with the unenviable task of accompanying me. At the front of the plane there was a kind stewardess who noticed my ashen face (and probably tears, I can’t really remember) and took me to one side to calm me down. Apparently anyway, (this was all relayed to me by my daughter afterwards). After a few minutes of gentle chatting, I was asked if I wanted to go and speak to the pilots either before the flight or when we landed.

“Oh, right now!” I declared, setting off purposefully towards the cockpit, but she put her hand on my arm. I think it was at about this stage that the stewardess had noticed that something was amiss. To my daughter’s horror, she then began questioning me about how much wine I had actually drunk. Through my ramblings, I cut the number in half and then reduced it again and her eyes told me that even that was too much.

“And have you taken anything else?” she asks suspiciously. By this point, something was creeping through the thick fog in my brain which told me that the truth wasn’t the best answer here.

“Oh – I – er – I’ve just taken some painkillers,” I tell her, and then for reasons totally unknown to me both at the time and now, I added a little extra detail: “I’ve got a touch of the old arthritis in my knee.” I bent down and touched it for a extra bit of authenticity. A TOUCH OF THE OLD ARTHRITIS IN MY KNEE????? What POSSESSED me to come up with that?? I’ve never had arthritis in my knee, or anywhere else for that matter. There was a perilous moment (apparently) where my poor daughter didn’t know if I was going to be allowed onto the plane, but I was and carefully limped to my seat. We took off and the drinks trolley eventually rumbled to a stop beside me. I requested wine – and was refused.

“We won’t be serving any alcohol to you on this flight, madam.” Given that this – to me – was a catastrophe of epic proportions, I whispered to my daughter that she would need to get the wine. The fact that she was only sixteen at the time escaped me completely. When she explained this, I (apparently) hissed at her “You are a very bad daughter. I will not forget this. Not EVER.” A few months on and I rather think that it’s more the other way around. Eventually we landed and I am still several sheets to the wind. Border Control looms in front of us, and unfortunately between the four of us, only myself and my youngest daughter had the same surname. I was asked (apparently) who my eldest daughter was. To the collective horror of my family, I swayed on my feet, beamed at him and said, “She’s my daughter.” I even spoke slowly because the poor man didn’t seem to have a grip on the facts.

“Can you prove this?”

“Prove?” I am flummoxed. And still beaming at him as he told me that she should have a letter from her father giving permission for her to travel. We didn’t have this, obviously, and there was a tense moment (apparently) when we almost weren’t allowed back into the country.

Needless to say, I was not popular.

So, you can understand why Friday’s flight was approached with trepidation from both me and my partner. Me for the flying bit, and him for simply being next to me throughout this journey. I was a lot better though, much less panicky and I didn’t do anything strange or out of the ordinary. Oh – actually – there was one thing I did for reasons unknown; I ordered Scotch on the plane. I don’t even like it! I rather detest it, in fact. But the mind works in mysterious ways……..well, mine certainly does. And now I have to go and apologise to it for a bit of a frantic weekend and try some gentle persuasion to make it address some work. Luckily, I’m a copywriter as well as an author, so ‘words is what I do best’.

Unless I’m on a plane, of course. Or at Border Control.