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When Sarah and her best friend Lisa are together – which is often now that Lisa has her own key to the farm – they adopt a unusual form of communication. They speak loudly very fast, in an unusually high register, and simultaneously. At first I worried about oxygen starvation because they can keep this up for very long periods of time without breathing. But neither of them has even fallen unconscious to the floor so I suspect they somehow absorb air through their skin.

I then wondered if they ever knew what the other was saying. I used to sit there, numbed by the aural barrage, like being under fire from several soprano machine guns. How could they possibly understand each other? Then it came to me – they clearly could because every now and then, fingers would come off the triggers and they’d become ack ack guns spewing a tracer fire of cackling which I translated as laughter. Obviously they both got the joke, so they must understand each other. 

And then two girl ducks arrived. You may remember the tragedy that befell Ernie. Having witnessed the killing of his friend Bert by a fox, saving himself by sitting in the middle of his pond, he was now grieving, alone and doubtless in shock. We decided the best thing for him was a couple of girls. So we found a place nearby which sells ducks (live ones) and got a couple of charming cross-breed something or others, brought them home, and put them in with Ernie. You could practically see the grin spread across his bill when two seriously hot bits of totty waddled into his hut. A day later and the three of them seem extremely happy, but we had a quandary – what to call them?

The quandary didn’t last long. The girls may be small, but they can certainly quack for king and country. As soon as a human or a pig goes near them, off they go, offering up serious competition to the cockerels whose mighty crows pale against their cackling. That was it! They sounded exactly like Sarah and Lisa embarking on one of their incomprehensible jokes. And while at university together, for reasons I don’t even care to think about, they called each other Stacey and Tracey.

It’s possible of course that in solving one problem all I’ve done is give myself another. When Lisa next comes to stay I won’t be able to tell my wife from the ducks, at least if I shut my eyes.

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