Duck Daddy and his Village

‘I am Joseph, Duck Daddy,’ a voice booms.
A spectacle covered in silt emerges like Neptune from the mud in Malta’s Sliema creek, clutching a rake. He waves his trident at shacks which cling to the slippery site on the edge of the opulent Marina. “Duck Village”, he proudly declares and he’s clearly ready for a yarn.

I’ve escaped the air conditioning and the soft carpeted lounge of my hotel in search of inspiration. ‘Incongruous’ is an unlikely tag to draw the tourist to Malta. Holiday hotels stretch seamlessly alongside Sleima’s harbour and filter out the oddities I seek. Now this genial giant I’ve chanced upon attired in an old sailing smock and waterproof trousers intrigues, and I’m keen to hear his tale.

‘First, I make Village for ducks,’ Duck Daddy explains, his English broken by strange Maltese vowels. ‘Then cats hit by traffic,’ he points; ‘all live good together.’ An earless cat snoozes on drift wood and ignores tiny birds that hop nearby. ‘People bring me poor little cage birds; I let fly free. Injured wild birds come to me - so make village bigger!’ he gestures at the array of painted shacks and several broken craft that have long since sailed on the seas. With artistic skills he’s decorated them all with painted flowers. ‘See, everyone’s name on their home?’

It’s surreal, this cramped outpost of happy feathers and fur squeezed up on silt beside a Marina which boasts monster craft from St. Kitts, The Cayman Islands and Bahamas. A pesky dog glares down from high on the prow of a three storey launch which gleams white as new dentures as though affronted by the ramshackle mess of ducks, bossy hens, snuffling rabbits, birds and numerous beasties. These creatures are free to fly or scuttle away but prefer Duck Daddy’s waiter service within their cosy abode.

Duck Daddy’s smile broadens. ‘Mother Hamster has babies!’ He now flutes a tune to his cuckoo, ‘How are you, my pretty? She luuvs, me,’ he sighs. ‘I like go to England, see magpie; Malta too hot for English birds.’ His face lengthens and tears fill his eyes; ‘A swan she hurt by motor boat. I feed her,’ he demonstrates a tiny bottle, ‘but she die. Her mate lies down to die with her; they luuvers,’ He expands, ‘I scavenge food when boy - our family poor.’ He shakes his large tousled head. ‘Hotels take our farm land, now the Marina wants my Village destroyed.

I leave him to his world, first putting euros into the painted boxes he’s wired to the fence “For Duck Village”. Inspired by Duck Daddy I return to my hotel and at dinner, bypass the rabbit in red wine and chicken breast and select a large seafood casserole. It’s a simple matter to wrap muscles and prawns in paper napkins. Tomorrow, Duck Daddy’s family of creatures will enjoy a tasty snack!

B Mackenzie

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