Tuesday, May 25, 2010


One fine summer's day some moons ago, a group of friends and I went for a picnic in Kew Gardens.
After walking around the grounds and investigating the hot house, we strolled down to the pond and found a spot on the grass which was just perfect for our picnic.
We laid down the blanket, opened the hamper and cool bags, and pretty soon we were scoffing down plenty of tasty pic-niccy treats and washing them down with some first class vino and Pimms.
All was good, all was peaceful and happy; My friends and I took our shoes and sandals off and paddled our toes in the pond while the sun continued to shine and a gentle summer's breeze kept us cool as we chillaxed.
Until the nearby ducks on the pond noticed that we had food.
It started with a quack.
One little mallard came waddling up to us and gave us a look as if to say 'What you eating, and can I have some please?', and he was rapidly followed by four of his chums who stared at us with the same quizzical expression.
It was then that one of my friends made the mistake of throwing them one of the crusts off his sandwich; his action started a major squabble between the five ducks, all of whom wanted first and last dibs on the leftover egg ' n' cress sarnie.
Once they finished their altercation, they came a couple of feet closer to us and resumed their attempts at staring us into submitting them our food.
Now, there were five of us and five of them, which would have made for an equal fight, but alas, their previous loud quacking over the crust had caught the attention of another gang of assorted breeds of ducks which also decided to come over to us to see what we might have to offer them food-wise.
What had started out as a peaceful picnic on a lazy afternoon suddenly turned into a rather surreal re-make of The Birds as slowly we became surrounded by a rabble of assorted Anatidae, all of whom were staring at us in a rather menacing fashion.
My friends and I whispered to each other as we discussed our best options, and we quickly decided that getting the remainder of the food back into the containers and hamper and move somewhere away from the pond would be our best bet, and so as quietly as possible and without making any sudden movements, we began to pack away our food.
We'd nearly finished putting the stuf away when suddenly one of my friends slipped on a patch of wet grass and gave a loud yelp as she hit the ground, which caused the ducks to start quacking and flapping their wings.
And then suddenly one of the ducks advanced.
With a loud, menacing 'QUACK', it waddled onto the picnic blanket and tried to grab one of the sausage rolls with its beak, but another of my friends was faster than the theiving bird, and shoo'ed it away with an M&S carrier bag.
That did the trick of making the duck run away for a second or so, but then as quickly as it had first advanced, it was back, this time with another accomplice.
But this time, they managed to get something.
That something was one of my sandals which as I previously mentioned, I'd taken off while I cooled my paws.
Now, one duck doing that might be strange, but then another couple of mallards moved in and grabbed some of my friends also unattended footwear before waddling away as fast as their webbies could carry them. The next few minutes were like a scene from a very bizarre Benny Hill episode as my friends and I either gave chase on the ducks escaping with our shoes, or began waging battle with the rest of the ducks that were still trying to steal what yet hadn't been packed away of the food.
The little bastards were quick and fairly soon I was running out of puff as I ran after the sodding bird that was still carrying one of my favourite sandals in its beak.
My friends weren't faring any better, and one poor chap gave a sad gasp as he fell to the ground as he gave up the chase.
But then I had an idea.
I gave up chasing my sandal and ran back to the picnic blanket and grabbed one of the sandwiches that were still out and being guarded by my friends.
I then ran back to the duck with my sandal and waved one of M&S's finest at the bloody bird.
The sandwich got the demented thing's attention and the duck stared me down for a few seconds, still holding my sandal in its beak until I waved the sandwich once again before throwing it a couple of feet to the duck's left.
My plan worked! As soon as I threw the sandwich down the duck relinquished it's hold on my sandal and as quicky as I could I swooped down and grabbed it.
One of my friends had noticed what I'd done and he also grabbed a sarnie and did the same.
It took another few minutes before we managed to get all our footwear back and escape with what was left of out picnic, and then we ran as fast and as far as possible away from the feathery, thieving sods.
I've been back to Kew Gardens since being mugged by a gang of Anatidae, but I've always kept my shoes firmly on my feet and eaten any food well away from the pond.
And I advize any one else planning on a picnic there to do the same!