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Ducks in the Bathtub

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THE prospect of life without duck a l'orange was inconceivable. What would we do at Christmas? No menu would be complete ever again. So were we really sincere about "going vegetarian?"

"What about starting with the big animals and working down?" Maureen suggested, giving me a sudden ray of hope that the ultimate sacrifice could be stalled.

"Brilliant," I agreed with indecent haste, "... and fair." Perhaps by the time we had worked through beef, mutton, and pork we might never have to face the unfaceable - life without "you know what."

As it turned out, events beyond our control dictated the course of our vegetarian path. It started innocuously enough on my birthday, which comes in July, when strawberries are fruiting and calabrese sprouting. I'd forgotten, but Maureen hadn't. She arrived home with a "birthday surprise," which she suggested I might not like.

"I am sure I shall love it," I said attempting a smile, "as long as it doesn't involve work."

She handed me a cardboard box with holes cut in the top.

They weren't very old, the three ducklings that huddled, wet and pungent, inside. They weren't very beautiful either; punk ducks with spiky feathers poking through the remnants of their duckling down. Punk ducks that needed immediate housing and penning.

"You said you like ducks," Maureen smiled encouragingly as she saw my face cloud at the prospect of the extra work.

"I do, I do," I replied, birthday bright, wondering where I had left the hammer.

And I did. I had always liked ducks, ever since Mother had kept a dozen Khaki Campbells for eggs during World War II when we were children. We were brought up together, so to speak, having enjoyed the same pursuits, messing about in water, getting dirty and into trouble.

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