Matthew Parris Matthew Parris

Being on the radio was a welcome relief from duck husbandry

Being on the radio was a welcome relief from duck husbandry

Let me tell you the story of the Docklands Eight, otherwise known as the Docklands ducklings. They came into my life briefly and by chance, ushered in by Kim.

Kim helps me keep my London flat, by the Thames in Limehouse, clean and tidy. A great animal-lover, she comes in on Monday mornings bringing new stories of the family of ducks which has been hatching on the stones in a shallow section of canal near where we live. Last year there was a disaster when a water-disinfecting operative eliminated a whole generation of ducklings in a single morning, so this year Kim has been watching over the brood and feeding them with bread. A couple of weeks ago, most of the family were grown up enough to fly, waddle or sail away. A couple, however, stayed behind in the canal. Kim was preparing to drop her guard for the rest of the season.

Then eight more ducklings, new-hatched, arrived, and were seen bobbing about in some confusion. They and their mother had been evacuees from somebody’s veranda, but on arrival in the canal the two young ducks already resident put the mother to flight. The brood tried to attach itself to the young ducks but they kept attacking them. Kim arrived at my flat in some distress. Two of the eight ducklings had already been pecked to death….

And now there were six.

I am no great bird-lover, but I felt for Kim. ‘I’ll catch the ducklings and take them to Derbyshire this weekend. They can live on my pond,’ I said, forgetting that on Friday I was to join the panel of Jonathan Dimbleby’s Any Questions? programme on BBC Radio Four, in West Wales.

Kim and I and two friends set forth for the canal and waded in.

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