Something is afoot down at the duck pond, and it's left me feeling troubled and confused.
Now call me naive and sentimental, but I always reckoned that feeding our feathered friends was as harmless a pleasure as could be had for the price of a small sliced loaf.
I'm not saying it's an entirely innocent pleasure, mind you. No, I'm well aware that the surge I feel when I raise a crust high into the air and see three score little heads cocked in eager anticipation would suggest that generosity is not the prime motivator here.
Indeed, on more than one occasion, the sight of a toddler teasing an entire flock of mallard with a discarded cigarette end ("Put that down, Nathan - it's disgusting!") has put me in mind of the Nuremberg rallies.
But something tells me that concern for our children's moral welfare is not what's behind the sign that has appeared in the middle of the picturesque pond for which a nearby village has long been famous."Too many ducks are causing pollution," it says. "To prevent culling, please do not feed the duck."
Let's ignore the ambiguous wording of the first statement (was there a time when only a few birds were responsible for the mess?) and get straight to the point. This is about duck droppings, yes?
By feeding the ducks, the notice implies, I am encouraging the dirty, smelly creatures to come here and do their business (it is a duck pond, for heaven's sake), leaving the parish with no choice but to kill themI sorry, I mean cull them.
In short, by feeding the ducks, I am murdering them. Which, for all my dubious motives in giving them bread, wasn't exactly what I had in mind.
Of course, if I don't feed them, they will die, but at least the "pollution" will stop, and they'll go and die somewhere else.
It occurs to me that, should I heed the sign, there will be an additional advantage for the people who live beside the duck pond - namely that I and people like me will stop coming here, along with our noisy kids and their squealing friends.
And how much rosier village life will be. No noisome ducks and no noisy outsiders either. Now that's what I call killing two birds with one stone.