Wednesday, 17 March 2010


We live in the centre of Amsterdam.

Whereas normally the canals run in front of the houses, ours is at the back. The street was once a 'schans' or trench, defining and defending the town. The front is 'bovendijks', the back 'onderdijks' - above and under the dike, so the building has dropped levels.

Anyway, we have a small yard at the back where the canal flows. Facing north-east, so it is a challenge to get anything to prosper other than ivy and moss, but Peter has managed to create a pretty little garden, with a beautiful wisteria twisting round the pergola, met by a grape vine, surprisingly sturdy and flourishing in the cool Dutch climate.
In the summer we can have lunch or supper there, a place to dream on a balmy night, though the view is dominated by a massive modern office building - not very romantic.
Not much doing at wintertime, but we had some fun retrieving our boat that had sunk under the heavy weight of the snow that fell amply this winter.

Peter also put in a pond. Now I never understood the point of that, as we are surrounded by water, but still, it's his thing, he nurses the plants, he puts in the work, least I can do is admire it.

To be honest, I think it is a bit of an eye-sore, but the rewards are the water lilies, after braving the cold they return each year, and, a fat little goldfish.
I like to think it is the same one that survives the cheeky town herons. Each year a new lot gets tossed into the pond, foolhardy, knowing full well the ugly birds will come and snatch them. And each spring we peer into the muddy depths of the little pool and rejoice to see there is still one left.
There he is. Has got to be the same one, the really smart one.

And so, for this reason, Peter keeps a pump running, day and night, every day of the year, to stop the freezing over when it's cold, to supply oxygen when it's hot, probably adding quite a bit onto the electricity bill, all for one tiddly goldfish........
Not this winter, though. It was bad, heaps of snow and the canals were solid ice.
Ducks started visiting our garden, our pond, to be precise. The pump kept an opening in the icy surface, as big as a pizza plate, and they took turns swimming around.
Eventually the thaw set in and less and less ducks came to use our spa, just one couple kept hanging around, checking the place out, making themselves at home.

A week ago Peter thought it was time to start getting the garden ready for the new season. To his delight he finds under a broom shrub, next to the pond, a nest with three perfect eggs.
We are not agreed on their colour but I like to think they were a soft turquoise; we won't know for a while because the female is now seriously brooding and the male is swimming and waddling about importantly, defending his mate and their, last count, 8! eggs.

Alas, I have little hope they will hatch, I have often seen the mum bunk off after covering the nest with some twigs and dead leaves, but the frost had returned. Those eggs must have been stone cold. Maybe someone ought to tell her the bad news, I feel sorry for the whole ritual they are going through for nothing.

I ask the gardeners who work in the park opposite our house. They seem to know all about these things and explain if the eggs are not viable the couple will sooner or later abandon them and simply start over again.

Well, that's a relief. But will they choose our garden for the next laying? I was so looking forward to all the tiny ducklings, had fantasies of them following me about, crossing the street with Sheppie and me to the park to have some fun, meet other ducks.
The only thing is, how long is the whole business going to take, because as for the moment, we can not get into the garden. The male gets excited, pacing back and forth by our back door, quacking - we are to stay away.

Peter is scratching his head, eager to start pruning, planting, sowing.
Now is the time.
He turns to me and says: Maybe you were right about the pond, maybe it should go..........

He can't be serious, what about the ducks?

I don't want to be right.
That stupid pond is here to stay!

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