Monday, 9 April 2007

Duck Race

A thousand or more plastic ducks race towards the finish line in a breathtaking Easter event at Hebden Bridge in Yorkshire. Everyone cheers but it's impossible to tell which is your duck as the numbers are small and written by an old man with a shaky hand on the underside. As I buy tickets for me and my son and on behalf of my girl, my best mate and my sister I have plenty of time to wonder whether I'm gambling or simply giving to charity. I decide it's gambling and make a mental note to get a pound from each of the people I bought tickets for. Unless I win. Presumably all the ducks are the same size and weight but I became perturbed by the rapidity of some and the apparent refusnik will of the stragglers. It's a microcosm of life: ducks scramble over one another to get to the top; most are happy to be part of the mass and many seem to give up totally right at the start. All are yellow. Although just down the road from BNP heartlands like Rochdale and Burnley, Hebden Bridge is scarily white and middle class. This is a strange kind of socially conscious middle class though: everyone dresses like they're downwardly mobile aspirant farmers. After fighting my way past yet another lesbian drum collective I understand why the duck race works in Hebden: Duck races are different, incongruous and odd in a very English way. BUT they are re-assuring because in all that difference there is nothing unexpected and, oddly, a sense of conformity. After all, all the ducks are the same colour.

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