Nothing beats a duck when you’re feeling down


Nothing beats a duck when you’re feeling down

The staff down at the pub, says TINUS HORN, are always patient and friendly, if you tip them properly. But when it comes to understanding your suffering, there's something even better than a bartender.


I'M off the sauce, and that's a problem. Or was. It was a problem.

Writing this column requires that I stay informed about current affairs.

I have been instructed to examine and analyse events from a neutral perspective, and to shield readers from unreliable news sources that spread misinformation; those that run around telling us humanity is a plague and that without it Earth would be a paradise. Unless of course you were a zebra or something, in an open field surrounded by lions.

It's not easy to write something cheerful about Joe Biden sending enough ammunition to Ukraine to … whatever, read all about it elsewhere, and weep, weep, weep.

In better days, I would go to Tipples in Hermanus to find out what was going on in the outside world. Barflies, of course, never have anything remotely interesting to say. We already know their barren, loveless, senseless existence is someone else's fault.

So, what was I doing there? Well, I've found that if you stare into the distance long enough, around midnight, when only the diehards remain, someone will eventually ask what's bothering you.

And that someone will be on the other side of the counter. Bartenders live by that Bible verse about love that my mother put on our fridge when I was growing up. They are patient and kind, otherwise no one would tip them properly; they don't revel in injustice, unless it's a flippin' cool story they can retell another day.

Consequently, I can share with them all my dark secrets about the adversity that has befallen me over the years, and in which my own reckless actions played no part, and we can share a deep sigh of mutual understanding. And, provided I tip them generously, next week they will again ask what's bothering me.

But there is something tragic about someone who would hug a Coke Zero all evening while waiting for his turn to confess to the counsellor.

So, yes. Those days are over.

But just when I thought, okay, now I'm screwed in the life-wisdom department, something happens.

I had to go to Cape Town a few Sundays ago (don't ask). As I was leaving my apartment block through the automatic gate at 7.30am, there was a roadblock: a flustered-looking duck that wouldn't be bothered by me honking the horn. Unlike Lynette from number 28 on the first floor, who always has a lot to say about honking.

The duck, Jock, was known to me. He and his partner, Gina — I don't know if they were married or just slept together, and I didn't want to ask either — had moved into a ditch across the road where the municipality had to stop doing whatever it was doing because of the recent heavy rains.

There they had more than enough fresh water and, on the face of it, it was an excellent place to scrub a nest and raise their young. But then the rain stopped, and the bulldozers returned. I preferred not to think about Jock and Gina's fate.

But there he stood, old Jock, looking bewildered, as one could understand under the circumstances.

I had to get out of the car. Jock knew well enough that humans cannot be trusted and scurried away before hopping onto the pavement. But something about old Jock didn't seem quite right. Not only mentally, but also in a physical way. Maybe.

Fortunately, I know Lucy from the vet's, the self-proclaimed Bird Nerd who knows everything about ducks.

I needn't have worried, Lucy explained. She told me how, early each morning, Dave the caretaker would scatter food for the ducks on the lawn. You have to scatter it, because ducks like pretending they are competent enough to find their own food.

Yes, they had to move away, but Jock still swooped in for breakfast every morning. And Gina? Lucy explained that female ducks quickly find a new partner if the male is foolish enough to build a nest in a silly place.

I spoke to Dave, who said it's fine, I can feed Jock on Sunday mornings when he usually sleeps in for a bit. He even poured some duck meals into a Tupperware bowl for me.

Thus, a close bond was formed. We needed no words to agree that Jock was not going to put all the blame for the broken relationship on his former companion, and likewise that if I couldn't say anything good about America, I would keep my mouth shut.

I also learned a trick in the process. Instead of scattering all of Jock's food on the grass at once, I do it a little at a time, and at intervals. That way, I make sure he stays for longer.

Jock and I were there again last Sunday when Lizahn from the corner shop walked over on her second smoke break of the day. I wasn't going to tell on her because she is entitled to it — she only takes 20 minutes for lunch, she once told me.

“Are you two actually still here? What are you doing?”

“Ag,” I said. “Nothing really. Just sitting here, talking quack.”


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