Mad or Sane? Diary memoir

Yesterday, our daily walk started at a different time than usual. Normally, a mother duck and her duckling greet us excitedly as we walk up the steps onto the bridge. They then tell us with animated chatter about their day and enthusiastically express their hunger. We listen intently to their quacks, console them, and sprinkle some food for them. Today, however, no Ducks were waiting.

As we proceed over the bridge, our awareness suddenly reverts to a ruckus in the sky. Looking up, we see two ducks quaaacking and flying madly towards us. Oh, I thought, sweet, baby can fly. They must have heard us coming. Surprisingly, however, the two ducks that landed in front of us were the mother duck and another beautiful Mallard with a dark green head and neck. The regular Mallards of this area have a green ring around their neck. I was a little puzzled, hoping that the duckling was ok. We talked to and fed the two ducks, the new beautiful dark-headed duck, not quite ready to open up to us, except for the beak (for food).

We continued walking, the ducks in tow (in the canal). A few more ducks had since joined. In the distance, I saw a frantic squeak and sudden ripple of water as a duckling sped towards us - and I knew it was the missing young duckling. At this moment, I was about two canal boats away from two canal boats with people in them. When it's me and nature, I don't care what people think of me. It's my time. I started speaking and encouraging the duckling, telling the mum Duck what a shame she had left her little one behind. We were having a great discussion around this, to which point the duckling's squeaks had reached the highest pitch as it stopped near me. I told the despaired duckling I would never give away her portion of food and that she needn't worry. The duckling released all her worries on me, and I consoled her with sympathetic tones and noises because, actually, ducks can't speak English.

We continued our walk, ducks in tow, Duffy and Lilly smiling as they were sniffing and enjoying the time. As we approached the two occupied boats, I sang, "Come on then, strap up", and Duffy and Lilly came to my side, and I strapped them up. Well, I put the link on the lead from my waist onto their harness. I have a dog lead that straps around my waist with three leads linked. I like my hands free for talking and walking as I am quite expressive if I'm in my element, although I am sure many know me as quiet and still.

With the dogs strapped, we take our strides past the canal boats. I steer the dogs as we walk past with commands like 'quickly quickly', 'no-visiting' or 'slippy slippy' depending on the situation. The command no-visiting is quite an interesting one. It can cause some people to stare wide-eyed upon seeing the German Shepherd dogs that are going to be visiting them. The reason is that some boats have been quite friendly and encourage the dogs to come closer. So, with curiosity, the dogs sometimes peer into open windows and doors.

As we approached the second canal boat, a brown lab abruptly appeared. Slightly overweight, but smiling, curious, cautious and just there (as if by magic). My heart started pounding, not from fear but from the suddenness. Duffy deeply bellowed Yippee friend! Lilly's tail goes into play overdrive. Then a head pops up at the door, and large uncertain and confused eyes stare at us. I lightly say to the man, don't worry, we were just surprised, and I command 'quickly quickly' as we pass on - although I am sure the boat owner took a few seconds to grip the whole situation.

We continued walking, and further down the canal, just as it bends, we met Squeaker Peaks, the most adorable moorhen. The only duck I know is Squeaker Peaks, even though I call all the ducks by their names, I don't always know if I am accurately matching duck and name.

When Squeaker Peaks and I first became friends, he was a fluffy black duckling the size of a golf ball. Whenever he heard my voice, he would wade up and down the canal bank on the far side of the water, squeaking loudly for food as if he were blind and trying to find the opening in the door. One or both of his parents would approach me, though not too closely, as I neared their part of the bend. I would throw some food into the water, and the parents would grab a few pellets in their mouth, return to the ducklings, pass one pellet at a time to them, and then come back to where I dropped the pellets, grab a few more, and repeat the process until they had enough food.

As Squeaker Peaks grew bigger, he would venture further and further out, still squeaking loudly until eventually taking the food from me. He wanted me to throw one piece at a time, not his full portion in the water at once. I would try very hard to aim each pellet as near to him as I could, however, this often meant that Squeaker Peaks would have to move around to get his food.

Now, even bigger, whenever Squeaker Peaks sees/ hears me, he starts swimming my way, a wiggle of enthusiastic squeaks, with dart-like ripples following him. He approaches really close to me, the only moorhen in that sector who does so. Another adult moorhens follows me along the towpath from the bridge. He emits a loud squawk to alert me that he is behind and ready, although lagging at a comfortable distance. I know then to drop his food portion on the towpath, in waiting for him and the family. Interestingly, the moorhens use a high-pitched squawk to signal that they want food and to alert others, and a low-pitched squawk to say thank you or when they have eaten.

After all this excitement, I heard the crows crowing and flying, and I thought Mmm, rain, but I thought the rain was later. The heavens opened at that moment. We were halfway on our walk with nowhere to go. The first few drops that hit your skin are icy, but only because you are warm. After that, as you look more and more like a drowned rat, you don't feel the water anymore. Well, except for the drops that are ski-sloping from your nose.

For some reason, the rain made me laugh, and boy did I laugh a good hearty laugh. My dogs don't care for rain. They like to stop, sniff, daydream - no worries, all the time in the world, regardless of weather. We are now approaching again the two occupied canal boats I mentioned earlier. For some reason, this throws me into intermittent fits of full-blown laughter. I wonder in gleeful comment, if the occupants thought odd of me before, what would they be thinking now? A laughing loony. Of course, the ducks are not worried about rain. On the walk back, they nonchalantly approach me for the last portion of food. When they are satisfied, they move off, shake their body, lifting tall and flapping their wings, then bathing by dipping their head and arching their back as the water runs down their back, and then off to bed. It is a lovely sight to watch.

The dogs and I continue walking. At this point, the rain is dropping in a free flow form off our bodies. I look up just past the trees that line the canal and see the most beautiful rainbow, bold and bright. I can see both ends of the rainbow. On top of that, I can see a more faint second rainbow. As is quite natural in such a situation, I burst into laughter whilst looking up at the rainbows that I can see as the rain is gushing over my eyes, eyelashes and eyelids, and I say "Thank you".

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