The noise of a duck landing

The noise of a duck landing epitomises everything I hope to achieve, and everything that anyone should aspire to. It is the perfect example of non-aesthetic slog culminating to produce a beautiful result.

22_230314 mutton to putney with charlie_230314_0151-2Ducks always land on water. They approach with the aerodynamism of a hurled sofa. Looking closely, you can see their expression – it’s the same etched distress as Harrison Ford had when faced with massed Storm Troopers, multiple sword-wielding men or Tommy Lee Jones in a tunnel. Next, as if they’ve just remembered they’ve got them, the duck’s speed-break wings go into action. They flap them like a man in a new suit waving his arms as he teeters on the edge of a swimming pool. But they’re still coming in too fast. Just when all seems lost, up go the triangular feet, the final defence – the airbags, the brace! brace! position – and the duck hits the water. That’s when you get the noise.

If you’re lucky enough to be nearby, quieten the dog, hush the children and listen. It’s a sound like a speed-skater’s emergency stop slowed down, or like a million champagne glasses being trodden on half a mile away. In fact it’s not really either of these. It’s the noise of a duck landing. A glissando diminuendo that will make your arm-hair stand on end.

The duck, knowing full well that when all seemed lost it not only pulled its descent off, but also produced the most exquisite noise possible, glides away like Cleopatra’s barge. Not for the duck the clever hovers and dips of the seagull. There are no health and safety ducks banning Mrs Mallard from flying until she learns not to crash-land every single time she goes up.

Instead, just as onlookers put their hands to their mouths in dread, the duck produces the perfect ending and, while it’s at it, the most exquisite sound in the world.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all do that?