Tuesday 22 March 2011

Out For A Duck

The river Esk gently burbles its way through the North Yorvik Moors, which occupy much of our part of the lovely country of Northumbria; it gradually widens and often deepens, picking up tributaries as it makes it way down to its mouth at Streonaeshalch, from whence it empties itself into the brine of the North Sea.

The river is a magnet for all kinds of life – especially voles and water fowl, but it also attracts humans as well; men are particularly fond of fishing by its banks in the hope of catching a trout. It also attracts mothers and small children, albeit for different reasons, I suspect. There's a serenity to be found at a riverside that is restful for the distracted soul; mothers like to seek some respite from the hectic activity of parenthood and find serenity in the tranquility of a riverbank; it's not insignificant that it was by the River Chebar that the prophet Ezekiel encountered his vision of the Almighty and His angelic cohorts and their fiery wheels. The young children love watch the ducks, geese, moorhens, coots and swans which often frequent the scene.

There is less noble form of life recently found to grace the riverbanks – especially where people are likely to gather: a declaration has been issued by the Witangemot stating that the water fowl are becoming too numerous because they're being fed so well by children bearing handfuls of stale bread, so they don't need to forage for themselves. Therefore the feeding of ducks is forbidden. As a consequence – as well as the rats and other scavengers attracted by the breadcrumbs - heavily armed costumed thugs are also to be found in large numbers by the riverside, spears and swords in hand, ready to terrify and intimidate any small child attempting to feed the ducks. Any young transgressor caught in the act is summarily seized and separated from its screaming mother and frogmarched to a young offender's institution, from which it emerges (if it's fortunate enough) as a gibbering piece of human flotsam several years later.

I find this incomprehensibly savage. Where did this draconian mentality come from? It appears that not so long ago, little children could feed the ducks in the Esk without fear of governmental oppression, but since the consolidation of the grip of the Holy Roman Empire (which is neither holy, Roman nor an empire) on the Northumbrian Kingdom, there is a barbarism that is encroaching on the liberties of ordinary people. But nobody is making a fuss; they don't want to miss the Big Wedding and the entertainments that the soothsayers are laying on for them.

Bread – or circuses? There's the choice. But the bovine Northumbrians haven't woken up to this yet…

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