Doing battle with daily dragons

Monday, February 21, 2005

The Ducks of War

Duck-on-the-roof season is rapidly approaching again. I know this because they were outside when I opened the curtains yesterday, watching. Waiting.

If someone had told me 10 years ago that I would be spending my 30th birthday living on a traditional English narrowboat, I probably would have dropped a few dollars in their Styrofoam cup and hurried off before they started telling me about the alien anal probe. Yet, somehow, ten years later I find myself forgetting what it was like to have a house in which you can't stand at the front door and stare straight through the living room, kitchen, bathroom and bedroom and right out the back door.

Springtime brings the ducks back to the marina. Since we moved onto Galileo 5 years ago, ducks have rapidly become one of my all-time favorite animals. I mean, for comedy value, you just can't beat ducks. Last year, while cruising the Grand Union, I watched a duck dive underwater and moments later, surface right underneath another duck. Anyone who says that a duck's face can't register shock and embarrassment is grossly mislead.

The thing is, they like our boat. A lot. I don't know if it's because it's warm in the mornings on the roof near the outlet for our boiler or that Galileo has particularly tasty fungus growing on it at the waterline, but we seem to be the belle of the Grand Union duck socialite circle.

Lying in bed on mornings when the weather is beginning to get warmer, The Rock Star and I are usually privy to one, if not both of these sounds. First there is the splat splat splat splat splat from above our heads. This is the sound that duck feet make when out for a morning constitutional on a steel roof. Then there is the taka taka taka taka taka taka from just under the window. This is sound that a duck's bill makes when removing the algae du jour from the hull of our floating abode.

There is also a third sound that we get as the weather warms up and that is SHRLUUUUP SHOOP SHLLLLLLUP SCHLUP. This was a rather disturbing noise that it took us some time to identify once we moved onto the boat. Our first, most obvious thought was, "Shit! Monsters!" but we finally discovered that the algae on the hull was not only a delicacy to ducks, but much admired by the resident carp, who use their giant, horrible fishy lips to hoover up just about anything that gets in their way. (bread, tennis balls, kayaks, etc) I can not, by the way, understate the amazing bigness of these fish. They could eat your cat. Even Clive's cat. No joke.

Incidentally, I was VERY disappointed to discover that http://www.duck.com/ is the website of The Duck Corporation who develops software-based video compression technology. Not only do they have nothing to do with ducks, but they've changed their name to "On2 Technologies" and have neglected to give up their domain name so that someone might be able to use it in a more worthy, duck related way. Shameful.