A (narrowly avoided) incident with a duck

A day off, after a week of research and revamping. A glorious day off as it turned out, spent an hour down the coast at Culzean Castle and Country Park.

With autumn coming, today Culzean provided almost an embarrassment of riches for the senses… sights, sounds, smells, scenes, sensations.

The adventure playground was filled with the evocative aroma of what must have been a huge bonfire, hidden from sight somewhere beyond the tall fence boundary, the wind wafting the smoke high through the trees away from unstung eyes.

A troop of impeccably well-mannered, if a bit scruffy, scouts queued up for ice-cream at the swan pond cafe. (Later, we also saw several troops of mushrooms*). Infact, the park was filled with people warmly wrapped-up in their winter jackets clutching variously flavoured ice-cream cones, I wonder if this also happens outwith Scotland.

Small feet scuffling through piles of rusty, fallen leaves. Gnarled trees, begging to be clambered upon.

A cormorant, balancing on a branch protruding from the pond, wings outstretched. (I took some photos and, when i had finished, an elderly gentleman enquired of me ‘Can you tell me, is that a cormorant?’ I nodded, unwilling to mention that it might actually be a shag. My camera must have (mis)signalled to him that I was in possession of greater ornithological knowledge than he. A couple of hours later, walking past the pond again on our way back to the car, we bumped into friends from home. The cormorant hadn’t moved. ‘Have you seen the cormorant?’ I asked our friends’ 9-year-old daughter. ‘Oh yes, mum thought it might be a shag, but shags are all black, with a tuft. Cormorants have a yellow beak – like that one’). 

At one point in the day I stopped myself (just in time) from telling the littlest one off for being about to chase a mallard. Not, you understand, out of any empathy with the duck – it’s a 2-year-old’s prerogative to chase ducks – but because said duck had been posed on the step, preening and perfect for a picture.

It had previously occurred to me that the necessity of jotting little notes to myself and taking photos might in some way spoil the enjoyment of family days out. Not so. I slightly annoyed everyone (including myself) at one point by suggesting that certain small people could scramble on parts of the gnarled tree where I wasn’t photographing. But, other than that – and the narrowly avoided duck-incident – I’m glad I scribbled a few thoughts down. One day, I’ll have forgotten about the cormorant, the fountain spray on my face, the sounds of the sea and the wind and, my favourite memory from the day, the middlest one voicing a wish to be a cannonball and fired out over the walled garden ramparts. And then I’ll read this, and remember.

*But none, alas, of apes, foxes, kangaroos or dogfish.

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