When I was in college in England I’d sometimes wander through the small village of Grantham, and that’s how I found the duck pond. And I mean “duck pond” because it was a tiny little pond about the size of an average kitchen table and it had approximately three thousand ducks in it–mostly mallards, but a few other kinds. Not that I know that much about ducks, except that, apparently, they don’t fly south for the winter, so they couldn’t bring back coconuts, but that’s another story.
Most days after lunch I’d fill my pockets with leftover bread and walk to the village and feed the ducks. I know most people say ducks aren’t that smart, and they’re right, but I think the ducks got to know me and even started to anticipate my arrival in the afternoons. When distributing bread I also tried to be fair and make sure each duck got some, and I like to think they appreciated that.
One night a group of professors and students decided to go caroling in the village and, for some reason, I was invited to come along. Let me explain the “for some reason”: I can’t carry a tune in a bucket. I seriously can’t sing at all. Maybe I could if I had some singing lessons–I’ve never tried–but I seem to lack the basic ability to at least sort of hit the right notes that other people take for granted. And most of the time I’m okay with just listening to music, and I really do love music. If you see me going to or from the bus stop in the afternoons you might see me putting an extra step into my steps because I’m dance-walking to a tune I’m listening to and maybe even lip-synching the tune even though I’ve got earbuds in so no one else can hear it. In fact I often wonder why I never see anybody with earbuds in dance-walking. Maybe they’re listening to a talk podcast, but if you’re listening to music while you’re walking don’t you ever feel the urge to dance to the tune? Sometimes, though, I wish I could sing, like when I went out with the group of carolers, and I was only there for moral support and to tell jokes.
We went through the dark village and stopped in the cozy warm light of the homes and sang at their doors. And here’s a weird thing: if you’ve seen Love Actually you know the scene where the guy goes to his best friend’s house to tell his best friend’s wife he’s in love with her and holds up this sign:
What’s weird to me about that is that all the people whose houses we carolers, or rather the carolers and me, thought we were out collecting money for charity. They were baffled that a group would go out caroling just for fun. Maybe that changed some time between my time as a student and the release of Love Actually.
As we came to one house there was a strange sound that came out of the darkness, and a moving shadow that approached everyone singing “Good King Wenceslas” and me. The sound got louder and louder. It was all three thousand ducks and they were quacking at us which, I think, meant, “Hey, what’s up people?” We’d come to the house with the pond. I didn’t have any bread with me but I let the carolers go on while I stopped and sang to the ducks, and they all dance-walked along with me.