It was on this day in 1990, when I was at seminary, when someone gave the community a little duckling. The little fellow was something like the above photo, hatched out of an egg a very short time before. As we celebrate the Vigil of St Andrew and St Saturnin of Toulouse, Bishop and Martyr, I remember this day with its long dark night just before Advent.
We named the duckling after this saint of the day and we looked after him, keeping him warm and feeding him with special food for ducklings. It was frightening to see him in the common room, the old private theatre of the Villa Marcelli, amidst so many black shoes and cassocks – lest he be crushed underfoot!
He grew to be a fine duck, not for eating, but as a pet. He swam in the moat of the seminary building and I saw him each time I returned to the seminary in the early 1990’s. I don’t know how long ducks live, certainly not for twenty-four years. We also had a couple of geese, and they all got on together as our seminary pets.
Every time the name comes up each 29th November, a smile returns to my face as I think of the little duckling.
At Bluewater Shopping Centre they have a duck pond with a few mallards and swans. I passed them on the way into the shopping centre and felt rather sorry that they were doomed to swim that dismal, ill-kept pond.
My English great-grandfather kept geese. My mother always said she was afraid to go into the garden because of them!
If they didn’t like it, couldn’t they fly away and swim somewhere else?
Perhaps their wings are clipped. I don’t know…
Here in the Netherlands, we often used to have duck couples come visit our garden around nestiing time, intensively, but for a limited period. I do not have a sharp enough eye to know if (some of) the same individuals/couples returned year after year or not.
When I was growing up in the American midwest, we had generations of cardinals who would shelter in our portico-like front porch on bitter winter nights. (We would sneak in the front door to avoid disturbing them…)
To anyone who has not yet read them, I would heartily recommend Konrad Lorenz’s accounts of his experiences with various sorts of birds.
Reminds me a bit of a story. I think associated with the Archbishop of Canterbury. Possibly Laud. That he was given a turtle. Said turtle then lived hundreds of years. Slowly going about his way.
My memory skills did serve me. My Google skills not quite so much. But I did find one source, and it was a tortoise.
That article is a bit unfair to Laud. Laud justified his policy of excluding dogs by citing instances of dogs “pissing on the altar, or else worse” (to quote him), and his preference was to rail in the altar area (for which the churchwardens would have to pay) to prevent such episodes (something that many opposed as “popish”). I remember myself reading an account of a long dispute between the Vicar and the Churchwardens in a Kentish parish church in the 1630s. It was the parish’s quarterly communion Sunday; a dog leapt upon the communion table and carried away the loaf of bread in its mouth. The churchwardens wanted to clean up the loaf and use it; the Vicar refused, and wanted a new loaf, and the churchwardens insisted that the Vicar had to pay for that new loaf himself – which the Vicar refused to do, resulting in no communion service at all. A long controversy ensued in the church courts between the vicar and the churchwardens over whether the churchwardens were remiss in refusing (which the court decided they were).