Saturday, November 16, 2013

Contemplating a plunge in Oxford
Before long I settled into what for me was a job made in heaven where I was to act as personal assistant to a delightful man as well as perform other quaint duties.

Rachel, Dr. Heaton’s wife, soon discovered that she and I had a mutual love of antiques, and so periodically she popped into my office at the start of day with the suggestion that the two of us ride the train to Birmingham for a weekly antique sale. She made sandwiches for our lunch and I contributed my favourite Eccles cakes – a delectable English pastry covered with sugar and filled with spicy raisins . The Dean, obliging as always, wished us good hunting. It was a job with a difference.

On those occasions, while other college staff dealt with more mundane tasks, I spent the day doing what I enjoyed most, chatting to antique dealers and searching for undiscovered treasures.

After a days rummaging amid mounds of copper kettles, antique snuff bottles, Worcester cups and saucers, farm scythes in various stages of decrepitude and even the occasional repro Chippendale chair with an outrageous price scrawled on a label dangling from a chair leg, we returned to Oxford at days end well pleased with our purchases.

As for quaint duties, one misty morning Rachel hurried into my office to say that the mallard duck that had been broody for days and had built a nest beneath a climbing japonica creeper beside my office window had hatched out a clutch of beautiful little yellow ducklings. They were, she said, scampering all over the garden. The problem with this scenario: the annual charity Cruse Fete and Sale hosted by Rachel was to take place in the deanery garden that same day. The ducklings, she feared, would be trampled in the rush for bargains.

The rescue was on. All in a day’s work , the two of us gathered up the precious balls of fluff, put them in a shoebox, and me in my office apparell and Rachel in her apron – she’d been cooking breakfast – set off from the Deanery garden down a cobbled walkway through Christ Church Meadow to the Thames River. Rachel carried the box and I, like the proverbial goose girl with a twig in hand, stumbled along behind in my spiky heels, shushing the quacking mother each time she strayed off route.

Upon reaching the river, mother duck plopped into the water and the ducklings, in a state of high excitement, jumped in feet first, in hot pursuit of their sleek feathered leader.

More to follow tomorrow...

Photo copyright Anne Gordon

Posted by Anne Gordon on Saturday 16th November, 2013


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