Ducking responsibility – An Irishman’s Diary about a weekend in Fermanagh

The ducks were still wild animals, even after weeks of turning up for breakfast, dinner, and tea, with an ever-increasing air of entitlement

‘It may be that, as experts suggest, their mating period has already passed, and that while human wedding season is only starting, the ducks have moved on, in every sense.’

‘It may be that, as experts suggest, their mating period has already passed, and that while human wedding season is only starting, the ducks have moved on, in every sense.’

 

Before leaving for a wedding in Fermanagh at the weekend, I found myself in the unusual situation of having to arrange a babysitter for the ducks.

All right, “babysitter” is overstating it a little. The three drakes and one female duck that have been camped on our lawn since the onset of summer were still wild animals, I knew, even after weeks of turning up at the front door for breakfast, dinner, and tea, with an ever-increasing air of entitlement.

They could probably look after themselves for 48 hours. Still, I felt guilty about deserting them. So I left a packet of Flahavan’s porridge oats with a neighbour, along with advice about keeping the water topped up and a note about how the smallest drake likes to be hand-fed, because otherwise he’s not allowed to eat at the same time as the dominant males.

Then we headed north. In the circumstances, it would be nice to report that the wedding was in Ballinamallard. And that would be almost true. But in fact the church was a couple of miles farther on, nearer the next village on that side of Lower Lough Erne: Irvinestown.

The reception, meanwhile, was around the western shore, at the Lough Erne Resort, made world-famous a few years ago by Barack Obama, Vladimir Putin and the rest of the G8 leaders.

A road sign near the venue, I noticed, warns drivers of a “Blind Summit” ahead. This must have seemed ominous in 2013. Sure enough, one of the many things the summit did not foresee was Russia’s invasion of Crimea a year later, which has since reduced the G8 to G7.

But the wedding was a glorious affair, at least: drenched throughout in sunshine for which, on this occasion, the Child of Prague could claim no credit.

Or so I assumed, the bride’s family being Church of Ireland and the groom’s Presbyterian. Mind you, for those same reasons, I had also expected the wedding celebrations to be relatively subdued. They were anything but. I think ‘“rollicking” might be the word for them.

Ballinamallard

The name Ballinamallard, by the way, has nothing to do with ducks. It’s from the Irish meaning “Ford Mouth of the Curses”, and as such may be yet another reminder of Ulster’s troubled past. So, for different reasons, is Enniskillen, to which I adjourned Sunday afternoon, a little tender, to watch a certain football match in which the locals were heavily invested.

During a short walking tour beforehand, I marvelled at the architectural drama of the well-named Church St, where the similarly narrow spires of St Macartin’s (C of I) Cathedral and St Michael’s (RC) Church face off across the narrow thoroughfare like opposing GAA midfielders.

Then I found one of the many green-and-white draped pubs, where the Ulster Final was showing on multiple screens. But alas, it was soon obvious that the teams were not as well matched as the steeples.

Half-time

So at half-time, I went strolling again: past the hallowed ground of the two churches to the hollowed ground of Blake’s (“Blake’s of the Hollow”), a beautiful Victorian-era pub much loved by John McGahern, who featured it in his writings.

McGahern noted it had the same patterned tile-work as St Michael’s, “but that the tiles in Blake’s are more cracked and worn”. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the time to wear them further. Promising a return some night, at more leisure, I headed back to the wedding, where there was still a Sunday evening barbecue to attend.

That was in the groom’s village of Kesh, home also to the Kesh Jig, of Bothy Band fame. Then, with the glow of yet another of this June’s spectacular sunsets sinking behind us, it was time to head for Dublin again. We could have happily stayed. But there were things to do, people to see, ducks to feed.

So I thought, anyway. The ducks bit has so far proven untrue. They were not waiting on the parched lawn when we got back, and the neighbour hadn’t seen them all weekend. At time of writing, it has been four days without so much as a quack.

It may be that, as experts suggest, their mating period has already passed, and that while human wedding season is only starting, the ducks have moved on, in every sense. Whatever the reason, I hope it was voluntary. But of course, a guilty part of me worries that they saw us leave last weekend and, thinking we were flying north for the winter, decided the good times must be over.

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