The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Ducks and the passing of years

Photo: Pond

Photo: Pond

“Are you really 56?” Danny looked up from the article in Woman and Home (who are doing a feature on homemade treats in the August 2010 issue).
“Of course I am. You are 3 years younger. I bet that I’m the oldest woman in that feature.”
He scanned the page.
“Yes you are.”

It’s strange but as the youngest child in my family I always feel young. I was quite surprised when the boy in SpecSavers asked me if I was over 60 – as they had a special promotion for that age group. He looked horrified when I replied.
“That’s a shame as unfortunately I’m not over 60. Let’s look at the other options.”

The only time that I was invited to a hen party was when I was 50. Needless to say I was the oldest person there. But I loved it.

I certainly didn’t feel 56/96 last night when I went up to The Chicken Lady’s house to shut the menagerie in for the night. The duck house seemed strangely quiet. TCL is not a politician so her duck house is far better than the one pin pointed in the recent expenses review – built by S the duck house is capacious and housed in a shady hollow. I peered into the eerie emptiness with a torch. The flock had vanished.

Had they been eaten by a fox? There were no feathers or sign of a struggle. They must have been stolen.

Crestfallen I stumped off to lock up the chickens and then I spotted the ducks having a wonderful party in the paddock that backs onto the garden. Quacking and bobbing about in the late evening sunshine. How on earth was I going to get them back into their house?

I tried calling and waving. Hopeless. They fleetingly turned their heads and continued to bob about at a distance. So, feeling aged 25, I leapt over the fence and ran towards them. In an instant they fell into line and I herded them easily across the paddock, through the garden and into their pen. They quacked all the way as they waddled quickly back.

I carefully examined their pen for escape routes and discovered that in the morning I hadn’t adjusted their prop up gate quite right. They had found a gap just big enough to squeeze through. At this time of year there are foxes and cubs in the fields. Vixens with a hungry brood take no prisoners.

I am lucky. The ducks were fine and I don’t feel 56 (or 106 or even 6). In my 20’s and 30’s I wasted so much time trying to be what I thought I should be. Since then I given up on that and as each year passes I feel more alive and rounded. I don’t welcome the wrinkles but they are a great swap for the prospect of exciting discoveries that seem to bounce out easily with the passing of years.

I am not yet wearing purple but in this superb poem by Jenny James, I can see traces of our future. I have a red hat and Danny has the boxes. And some are already filled.

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

Jenny Joseph

  Leave a reply


  1. Toffeeapple

    Hmm, I posted a reply earlier but it’s not here. What is going on?

    Anyway, many congratulations Fiona, I hope that the article will lead to many more; nice that Danny got a mention too.

  2. danast

    I too love this poem and now that I am a senior citizen, I love it even more. I certainly don’t feel my age, but my bus and ferry pass tell a different story. I am retired and busier than I have ever been. I am content with my life and I often wonder how many people can say that. Oh lots of things still go wrong and I can still become exasperated with life, but I consider myself to be very lucky. Let us celebrate age and not bow down to it.

    So glad you got the ducks back Fiona. I know how I would have felt in your shoes.

  3. Cindy

    I am 55 and you expressed so well what I feel inside. No one would have convinced me when I was 20 how wonderful it is to be this old. Life is so much better than it was when I was young. Life is what you make of it, and it sounds like you have made the most of what God has given you.

  4. Cookie Girl

    Oh what a great post. Firstly congratulations on the piece in Woman and Home – love it !
    In terms of ‘age’ … what difference does it make a person’s age, whilst I am in my mid thirties my husband is twelve years older than me – does that matter ? For me it matters not a jot. One of my best friends got married yesterday – she’s 66 – good for her ! And good for me to have her as a friend because she’s lovely. Another best friend is 25 and has just had her first child, her partner is in the Army. Why should we surround ourselves with people similar in age and outlook to ourselves just because it is expected – how boring is that ! They say variety is the Spice of Life and I totally embrace that. All the best to you both.

  5. Jo@LittleFfarm Dairy

    Oh Fiona,

    this tonic couldn’t have come at a better time as I’m sure you’ll understand, if you refer to the last three sorrowful posts on my own Blog (& I do hope you will help by sympathetically enjoying & indulging in the music which accompanies these poignant posts).

    Referring to the poem here: it was my sister’s favourite – it serenaded her cheekily rebellious nature & inspired me to achieve the top grade at ‘A’ Level when tackling a potentially tricksy exam question.

    Meanwhile do refer to the latest post on our own Blog, for a full explanation; to be honest my tearful eyes are too weary to say or do, much more.

    As you know; my sister Melissa tragicaly died not long ago. (It might sound daft; but this week has left me raw & lonely with our own bereavement).

    So in spite of today’s tears I cannot help but smile when refreshed by that poem (& indeed when I catch myself doing some of those wonderfully decadent & luscious things “in practise”, even now).

    Thus when I am “old” – whenever that may be; I shall definitely, proudly, wear purple.


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