Monday, July 18, 2011
saving a duck
traveling can get boring if.....
.....it's just one sparkly-elegant-four-star-mostly-booked-solid kind of hotel and one boasting-best-wine-selection/world-renowned-elitely-trained-head-chef/brand-new-award-winning-gourmet kind of restaurant after another. (not that i would know anything about establishments such as these.) aha, perhaps you beg to differ with me? you have your mouth wide open in dismay and disbelief and are shaking your head thinking whataya crazy? what's wrong with places like that? they sound kinda nice to me.
sure, nice, but i'm trying to make a point here and the point is.....when you're a tourist on a whirlwind trip through a foreign land, and you might be starting to miss your own pillow and your own bed back home, and you're hunched over a map in your rental car on the wrong side of the road where you might be having a tiny tiff with your husband about whether to take the scenic route or most direct route after having survived four roundabouts in a row, and when you're tired and you lost your passport but then you found it again, and when you might have even just forgotten where the hell you are (you look at the map again), it doesn't matter what hotel you're staying in or where you're dining. everything can start to look pretty much the same. what you need when a trip gets a little ho-hum is some drama, some action, some local color, to make you able to differentiate locations and recall them later on.
quite simply, you need a story.
oh yeah, i remember that place. that was in coggeshall, wasn't it, where the lady saved the duck.......
one morning at 7 a.m. i went down to breakfast in our very british hotel—hundreds of years old, and full of exposed beams, low ceilings and creaky floorboards—while ed checked out and put our suitcases in the car. a rather dirty lady—short, a bit plump, looked like she was in her 40's, but who knows, maybe she was in her 20's—hurried past me and breathlessly promised that she would be right back. i sat at a table in the empty breakfast room (breakfast had just started) and waited for her return wondering if she was the waitress and, if that was the case, if i wanted to be served by such a dirty woman.
i waited almost ten minutes for her and then i learned three things: her name was daisy*, she was indeed the waitress, and she had a story to tell me.
the first time i saw daisy, the front of her white shirt was splotched with mud and something green, and her face had a good helping of mud (and something green) on it, too. the second time i saw daisy, although still out of breath, she had put on a clean shirt and her face was washed pink and bright. she apologized profusely and had her pencil and pad of paper in hand ready to take my breakfast order. the minute she opened her mouth, her delightful local accent and delicious choice of words (i cannot begin to tell her story as wonderfully as she did, i wish i had a recording) had me hooked. i said "never mind my breakfast! first tell me, what happened to you this morning?" and then listened intently as daisy happily launched into her tale.
it was on the narrow, winding (here we go again with those little english streets) road through the small village center of coggeshall, where it all began. a duck had decided he was going take his morning waddle in the middle of the road, in the process slowing down and holding up the morning commute to work. daisy's friend, alice, worked in one of the shops in town right where all the duck action was taking place and, as daisy walked by on her way to work, alice called out to her friend. after saying a hurried "good morning" alice pleaded with daisy to please get the duck off the road since she couldn't leave the shop at the moment.
"oh my, the poor wee thing, frightened by all the honking horns," she told me. "i was already late for work, but the dear mite might have got hit by one of them and i couldn't live with myself if that happened, so i ran into the traffic, waving my arms all around so everyone would just stay calm, and grabbed the sweet duck and held him tight against me and that wasn't easy because he wanted to wiggle himself free and walk by himself, not with me holding him, you see......."
her story came out fast and without a pause. it seemed such a relief to her to have someone to unburden herself to.
i begged her to continue her story.
"well, not much more to tell, is there? i saved the duck, is all."
i said "but i have to know, what did you do with the duck?" i was still curious as to where the mud came from, too.
"oh, the duck? well, there's a little stream down there, it's not massive, mind you, but good enough for a duck, so i hurried as fast as i could to get him into the water but first i had to get myself and the duck over the fence and that was full of muck and green, slimy stuff. when i scrambled over it i got my shirt dirty, but the duck was safe at least."
i congratulated her on saving the duck and we chit-chatted a while longer. daisy was a real character, honest and outspoken.
you know, there aren't many people who would go through all that to save a duck. i have to say, daisy made my day with her story and now i'll always remember that small village in the uk because of her and, of course, the duck.
*not her real name