Category: Ducks

There’s an awful lot of politics about these days. I can’t remember there ever being so much. We used to just vote once every four or five years and then the politicians would get on with their jobs, leaving us to get on with our lives untroubled until the next election. Living in a stable democracy in Western Europe, so long as they didn’t wreck the economy, that’s all we needed. If we lived in some unstable country with dingbat leaders we might be more engaged but in the UK, not so much. 

These days I’m expected to know about, and have an opinion on, elections in France, Germany, South Korea. And don’t get me started on the USA which, after eight years under the guidance of the charming and personable Obamas, has staggered from daily scandal to daily scandle under Mr Trump. Rather than ‘draining the swamp’ he seems to be topping it up and adding a few extra alligators.

Here in the UK we are having an election. It’s been an unexpected one and it’s proving to be momentous. The Brexit vote last summer has thrown everything up in the air. The Scots are banging on about independence again. There are genuine worries about a ‘hard’ border between the two parts of Ireland. We’ve only recently got to a point where Northern Ireland is, mostly, at peace; a peace that could be wrecked by border controls. As it stands, people on both sides of the border pass from one part to the other with no controls, giving people the idea that they live in one country while those who want to remain part of the U.K. are comfortable that they are still part of that. We’re not sure what will happen with the economy but the fall in the £, post Brexit, has put up prices and caused inflation and people are feeling poorer. Don’t worry about us too much though, we are still one of the richest countries on the planet with most people enjoying a high standard of living. The Europeans are making noises that Brexit won’t be easy and I’m sure it won’t. We’re not leaving the local golf club after all.

Mrs May decided to have an snap election. She wants a bigger mandate from the British people when she negotiates with Europe she says. Either that or she has realised that in 2020, the date of the next election, we will still be sorting out the mess of Brexit and delaying the next election to 2022 would be politically good for her party.

The election literature is coming through the door. This, above, is the offering of the Labour Party. It looks like it’s been done on someone’s home computer and printer. I have read it. It’s very locally biased but we are in a national election. It talks about government cuts’ effects on local senior citizens and the local National Health Service hospital. There is no mention at all of Brexit and that’s the issue that it foremost in everyone’s mind. It also doesn’t mention the leader of Labour, Jeremy Corbyn. He’s a deeply divisive figure in the country. Members of the Labour Party love him and have voted him in twice as leader. The electorate generally thinks he’s an extreme left wing fool. Some Labour MPs are deliberately leaving him off their literature in the hope we will forget about him. 

Mrs May’s Conservative Party has sent us this. Not much writing, a big picture of Mrs May (who is very popular in the country), it discusses Brexit and includes her manta of ‘Strong and Stable Leadership.’ It’s simple and to the point. The opinion polls have Mrs May romping away with the election with three weeks to go. There’s none of that knife edge poll numbers they had in the American election last year. There could be an upset I suppose but I wouldn’t bet money on it.

Back to the little things and a duck update…

I was quite concerned to see Mr Duck on our garden on his own. Mrs Duck was nowhere in sight. I thought maybe she was sitting in some eggs somewhere. He does look handsome with his green, iridescent feathers.

But I needn’t have worried. He was just looking around for any possible dangers while Mrs Duck was poking about in the flower beds looking for some tasty morsels to eat.

Our two visiting ducks wander about the gardens of the local houses as they feel like. They are untroubled by people and cars but keep a weather eye open for cats. This evening they turned up on the lawn between our house and the drive. They were sheltering from the rain under a Silver Birch tree. So much for ‘nice weather for ducks.’ The lawn is looking a bit brown in places because of the dry weather we have had. We’re entering a more usual mixed weather pattern and we’re going to have sunshine and showers which the gardens and the farmers will appreciate. 

It’s been a long day. Up stupidly early to get over to Yorkshire for a early meeting, then back to the office and then over to HOME to see some associates. I was able to have a Friday afternoon ‘attitude adjuster’ there before jumping on the tram system to get home. I got talking to an Irish guy and his small son. They’d flown over yesterday to see Manchester United play and had spent today riding around on the trams and the trains before flying back to Ireland. The little son is fascinated with trains and, as they live in the rural  heart of Ireland, he doesn’t get to see many. He was impressed with how all the lines interlinked and how the trams linked with the trains and how we knew where to change lines and so on. He showed me his ticket that he was taking into school on Monday as part of his ‘show and tell’ session he’s going to do to make up for two days off school to see a game. I showed him my ticket on my phone and explained about the app and how I bought it before leaving home. He was impressed. I may get a mention in his ‘show and tell.’

When I got home two ducks were wandering around the garden. A male and female Mallard duck. The female is the brown one, so she can camouflage herself when on a nest, and the male is the brightly coloured one designed to attract the ladies. I could be wrong, but these could be the couple of ducks that have appeared for the past few years in our neighbourhood. They are not concerned about people or cars coming and going and we all look out for them when we drive about. They were quite happy to allow me to get close to take these pictures.

If the weather is nice and we have something to discuss and think about it’s good to get out of the office to do it. We are blessed with an office building set in a park and surrounded by little areas of woodland full of old trees, wildflowers and creatures. The assorted creatures that share our space seem quite happy to do so and are used to people and cars coming and going and show no fear of us and we appreciate them.

This morning, as we wandered over to get a coffee from the park hub, I spotted some Pink Campion in flower, the first of the season. I couldn’t get too close to it as it was surrounded by brambles and nettles. Makes mental note for blackberries for later in the year.

‘Cast ne’er a clout ’till May be out’ is a phrase we have in England. It either means keep your winter clothes on until the end of May or until the May (Hawthorn) blossom is out. It’s out now with great clouds of white blossom and its heady perfume so maybe it’s time to start casting my ‘clouts’. We will see. Don’t hold your breath. The bees were loving these flowers. Later in the year there will be bitter, red berries, called haws, that see the birds through winter. You can make a jelly from them that is supposed to be nice served with cold meats. Do not believe anyone who tells you this. It is vile!

I like to visit these beds of Azalea bushes near the office. They are slow and low growing, covered with tiny dark leaves most of the year. But for a few weeks in May they are smothered with these brilliant pink and red flowers. We have some azaleas in our gardens in other colours and I think we need more. They are stunning.

Around the lake the wild Yellow Flag Iris are just starting to come out. They like to grow right on the edge of the lake with their roots in water and their heads in the sun. Just a few at the moment but in a few days, with some sunshine, there will be hundreds.

I spotted this mother duck and some ducklings having a chill by the edge of the lake. I nearly missed them as their colours were camouflaged with the soil and the surrounding plants. They were quite happy for me to get close to take the pictures. They are used to people and have no fear of us.

I always give the Canada Geese a wide berth. They are big and move about in groups and look like they could handle themselves in a fight.

On the lawn there was this drift of white Narcissi. I’m not sure why we call the ones that come up in May, Narcissi, while the ones that flower in February, March and April we call daffodils. They are all part of the same family. What we call daffodils tend to be mostly yellow with the big trumpets. Narcissi, like these, tend to have white petals and smaller trumpets, these are a delicate yellow and edged with red as if someone has painted it on. These are the last of the season, once these have finished there will be no more until next year.

I liked these Rhododendrons. They are the bigger cousins of the azaleas. They grow fast and can get out of hand. They were brought from the mountains of China and the like and have found they like the UK. In some parts of the country they have escaped from gardens and have become a real pest, colonising entire mountainsides and crowding out native plants and creatures. These seem to be under control though. I loved how the buds are dark pink but, as they open, they turn pale pink and then white.  

New duck….

I’ve had my eye on this cute garden duck in ASDA for a few weeks now, since the got their new garden range in. Passing through an ASDA today I finally succumbed . It’s dry and sunny today, not too hot but he’s ready for when we have some rain. In England? In summer? Never!

He’s looking good among the newly planted pots. No one knows I bought him yet. I wonder how long it will take until he gets noticed?

Today is May Day and is a bank holiday in the UK. It’s usually the first Monday of May which this year coincides with the first of the month. It’s an ancient celebration in Europe dating back to Roman times and the celebration of Flora, Goddess of Flowers. It probably goes further back than that as it marks the return to the warm, summer days of plenty and growth. It’s connected to fertility and in medieval Europe it was celebrated with all kinds of goings on going on in the fields and forests to ensure fertility, if you catch my drift. With most of us living in cities these days it’s a much tamer festival now.

In communist and socialist countries it’s been taken over as a celebration of the working man. In the UK, we go to garden centres and DIY sheds. 

On Saturday I was over in the village of Culcheth and we spotted a stall being run by the St. Rocco’s Hospice, selling summer bedding plants. They didn’t have a huge choice but they were quite cheap and the profits go to St. Rocco’s so we bought some. We do have a personal connection with the hospice so we like to help. I discovered that they were going to be there again on May Day so we went over to get some more plants.

The roads were very quiet for a Monday with most people having a lie in on an extended weekend. This was good for the duck I found wandering in the middle of the road on the main road into Culcheth. On an ordinary Monday she would have been a gonner. Mr Duck was quacking at her from the roadside while Mrs Duck walked into the traffic. I stopped the car, stopped the oncoming traffic and the cars coming up behind me and then ushered both of them into the field nearby. 

Good deed done for the day, we drove on into Culcheth where they were setting up a May Day village festival. People would come out during the day to enjoy it. My relative who lives there assured me that no goings on would be going on in the fields and woods around the village later on. People would probably have a nice lunch and watch some TV.

We found the St. Rocco’s stall and bought some more plants. 

It looked quite grey in Culcheth and I thought it might rain. But, by early afternoon, it had turned sunny as I finished planting out the summer bedding, including the ASDA doggie planters that I like.

Over the last year or so we have got used to the bright, yellow water taxis, or Waxis, plying the rivers and canals between the city centre to Salford Quays and on to the Trafford Centre. One route starts in Castlefield and goes to Media City and then on to the Trafford Centre. A second route is being started that will eventually go from Victoria Station, along the River Irwell to Spinningfields and then to Media City. Given the grid lock that can happen in Manchester in the rush hour, a sedate ride to work along the canals and rivers is a viable and pleasant alternative. Tourists enjoy the ride as well. Over the summer I’ll take a trip and see what it’s like. It’ll give be a different perspective on the city.

I got chatting to the guys running the system. One of the Waxis was moored on the New Bailey side of the river. I wondered about a third route along the Rochdale Canal from Piccadilly Station to Media City. There must be a constant stream of BBC types,and other media bods, arriving from London and wanting to get to Media City. The route has a dedicated tram route already. They said no. There are too many locks on the section of the canal between the station and Castlefield. If you’re having a drink at one of the bars on Canal Street or Deansgate Locks it’s always fun watching the boats negotiate the locks but it does take an age. Especially when they don’t make it. 

The duck races were supposed to start at the Bridge Street bridge and finish under the Irwell Street bridge passing through Spinningfields and New Bailey. The problem was there was a stiff breeze blowing across the river at right angles so they changed the direction of the race starting at the footbridge and finishing at the start. As they say, ‘in Manchester we do things differently.’

Then another problem happened. The wind blew all the ducks, in both races, into the New Bailey bank where they stubbornly stayed. So the Waxi saved the day, ran up and down the river creating waves that eventually got the ducks moving in the direction of the start, sorry, finish!

Pictures of the Corporate Duck Race with the Waxi trying to move them along…

I was quite pleased that I caught the launch of the main duck race with a golden shower (behave!) of ducks being dropped into the river…

The ducks were reluctant to swim. They all clumped together in the middle of the river having a meeting about how to deal with the race, and then decided to follow their corporate buds into the bank…

Although the duck race is a bit of harmless fun over the Easter weekend, it does have a serious point in raising money for charity. This year the charity was Brainwave, an organisation that helps children who have born with, or suffered, some kind of brain trauma and helps them to become more independent.

The companies that create wealth in Spinnifields and New Bailey sponsor large ducks for a corporate duck race with the money going to the charity. The ducks were on show on the steps of the Bridge Street bridge prior to the race. A great deal of effort goes into dressing them.

My favourite was the Beaky Blinder duck. He’s dressed like a Victorian gang member from Birmingham, made famous by a  rather good TV show called Peaky Blinders. The Birmingham gang got their name from the razor blades they concealed in the peaks of their caps which they would blind their enemies with. I wonder if this duck has one in his cap. He intends to win! Manchester had a similar Victorian gang culture. One of the famous gangs here was called The Scuttlers…

Amy, gone but not forgotten…

Elvis of course…

A certain American president. If this one had come second he would have claimed to have won…

I took a lot of pictures today. So many I can’t think of a simple way to arrange them. So I’ve decided to do them chronologically. Cross Deansgate from Brazennose Street takes you onto the Spinningfields campus. Dominating the plaza between the Armani Store and the John Rylands Library was this huge rubber duck. I’m going to need a considerably larger bath…

I’ve posted several times about the wooden ducks we have collected over the years. We like to dress them up for special occasions like Easter and Christmas and for national events like royals occasions and to support the various England teams. The guy who used to sell them at the Manchester markets has given it up to open a new business in Wrexham, north Wales, selling model planes and cars and the like that you can make up yourself.

You can still find the ducks though. We spotted these beautifully painted ones at The Hollies farm shop where we went for the gin tasting a few nights ago.




And these we saw, upscaled and up-priced ones, at a flower show in Chorley (more posts soon about that) that we went to yesterday. They are cool but I prefer the unadorned ones we have that we can dress up.