Apologies today: life is throwing curveballs at quite a rate, and I have neither answered your comments nor visited my blogging friends. Hope to get to do both later today – meanwhile, some ducks.
A duck’s place is in the pond, is it not?
Or so the composer Sergei Prokofiev must have believed. He wrote one of the great modern fairy tales for Russian children, and in it, the duck comes out of the pond while the wolf is around, and meets its plaintive end singing inside the wolf’s tummy.
So Russian. So fatalist. I can almost see the duck brandishing a small measure of cheap vodka as it tells its tale of woe.
Peter and the Wolf caught Prokofiev’s imagination when Natalya Sats, and the Central Children’s Theatre in Moscow, commissioned a new musical symphony for children.
He took just four days to write the 25 minute piece which tells a tale of the boy who goes out of the gate into the meadow and away from his stern grandfather’s jurisdiction, only to encounter a deeply Soviet bogeyman: the wolf.
The duck who lives in the yard follows him out and samples the pond; she has time for an argument with the smaller bird who cannot swim, and is stalked by the household cat. But she becomes over excited with all the action, and comes out to run around.
Ducks simply should not tap dance in front of wolves; it doesn’t do. This one, scored as a plaintive little oboe, pays the ultimate price, and the closing bars of this exuberant piece portray the duck swimming around in the darkness of the wolf’s stomach.
Of course, it must be in line with the glorious communist ideals which were expounded day-to-day in Russia’s classrooms. The little boy, Peter, is a Young Pioneer, the youth movement run by the regime at the time. But the animals, they are timeless, and they catch children’s imagination today as much as they ever did.
I always felt deeply sad for that duck. Surely she could have stayed in the pond.
The ducks here are a little confused, disoriented, even. Because suddenly the number of ponds has shot upwards, from two main ones in the forest to a plethora of puddles, promoted by the rain into flat lakes.
The ducks don’t know what to do with themselves. So much choice and so little time.
As I type the dog is on his cushion, running and yelping quietly in his sleep. He is remembering the ducks we met today, I feel sure.
The ducks have not fathomed the whole business of depth. Things can reach them, and possibly have them for dinner, if their legs are long enough to reach the bottom. But the ducks are blithely unaware of this. It’s a lake, they say; it’s wet, it’s wide, stop nagging already.
Thus, Macaulay the dog has been having a field day.
He will shuffle lazily through the turnstile gate at one end of the forest fort and suddenly his eye will be drawn by the form and movement of those distinctive Daffy beaks.
Fast dogs can reach 45 miles per hour; Mac would be lucky to reach twenty. But his acceleration from 0-20 miles per hour? That is something to behold. I would love to hear his thoughts as he clocks the action, floating serenely in half a foot of water, the creatures convinced they are invincible.
Like a bat out of hell, he charges the foolish creatures and I am afforded the sight of three perfect flying ducks silhouetted against the Spring sky.
Wow, I think to myself. I have seen that scene in ceramic form above so very many fireplaces.
When did we first begin to see the iconic flying ducks, three pottery birds hung like pictures on the walls of houses?
The man responsible for the first duck was appointed chief modeller at Beswick Pottery, Stoke on Trent, in 1939. His name was Arthur Gredlington. He introduced animal figurines to Beswick’s repertoire; farmyard animals,Beatrix Potter figurines and suchlike. It was only a matter of time before his attention turned to the humble duck.
He it was who invented the wall-hung ducks and made them accessible even to the working classes. Their popularity was instant, and some bright spark had the idea of grouping three such figures together on a wall for effect.
Can there be any greater accolade to a piece of pop culture, than that it became an early television phenomenon? The grand old queen of British soaps, Coronation Street, accorded them to the shrill hair-netted housewife Hilda Ogden. On her wall, she had a ‘muriel’- a painting on the plaster of deplorable provenance – and above it flew three ducks.
So perhaps, as well as allowing the duck the safety of the pond, we should accord it a place in the skies.
Their airborne silhouette keeps Macaulay the dog amused; and looks so very fetching in the watery sunlight of a showery spring afternoon.