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THIS AND THAT(Continued)

The Little Duck Boy

It was the beginning of August when we first saw him. He was in our garden. I went down and pointed out that he was in a private garden. The expected tirade of abuse didn?t happen. He was apologetic and asked where along the river he was allowed to go. I warmed to this lad and we chatted for a while. He was keen to learn about the birds on the river.

After that we seemed to see him most days now carrying ever growing bags of bread to feed the ducks.

Several days later we chatted again. He said his name was Ashley and he was ten years old. He was, he said, ?a thicko?, a special needs case and all that. He lived in Nottingham with his mum but he was spending the summer holiday with his dad. Every morning when he went to work his dad gave him two quid for a drink and some lunch and locked him out until he got home. He bought a packet of crisps, a drink and spent the rest on stale bread from a local supermarket to feed to the ducks. When the checkout girls found out what their new regular little customer wanted the bread for the bags of stale bread got bigger and bigger and free.

We watched him, we no longer referred to him as Billy No Mates he was Ashley a polite young boy to be respected and certainly no ones ?thicko?.

We watched him work the river bank. No longer did he throw bread for the ducks he sat among them and fed them all around himself, some he fed from his hand even the geese and swans he fed that way. The only ones that continued to keep their distance were the moorhens but even they seem to be less wary than normal.

He sometimes sat with us and we would look through our field guide to British Birds.

One day we saw him in the sluices and rushed down to find out what was happening. We found that several half grown ducklings had been swept over and couldn?t get back to their parents. We watched at the expert way he handled the ducks, the result of helping his Grandpop with his chickens he said. When he finished his task we helped hin out and told him that it was a silly to go into the sluices particularly when there was no-one there if thing went wrong who would help him? Still we admired him for his caring.

Today we saw him again, he waved, we waved back, he gestured, we went down. He told us the time had come to go back home to Nottingham. He said how much he had enjoyed his holiday.

We will miss Ashley, the little duck boy, I hope he comes back next year.

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