COLUMN: I miss being greeted as ‘duck’

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Living in the Philippines as I do now, I miss greatly the greetings you get in the Chad district — especially the dry slightly sarcastic ones.

My favourite of course is the use of the word ‘duck’. Over the years duck has gone through the wars.

It’s been sexist, politically incorrect and all the other modern terminology you can think of. But as far as I’m aware, it still reigns supreme.

In fact the word seemed to be part of almost every greeting, but especially to the opposite gender. It also formed part of praises given for all sorts of things and no doubt still does.

I got to thinking too about Bonfire Night. To us kids this was one of the year’s major events. We would start collecting wood ages before. Branches, wooden cases, in fact anything combustible left lying around would be carried or dragged for miles if necessary. You would finish up with a massive bonfire, especially if some of the dads helped.

Of course, with weeks to go before the night, we always built a den inside. Then most evenings we had a small fire outside and would roast taters and all manner of things. Almost forgot the chestnuts. We would toast bread too, if you could scrounge any from home. I still recall the taste of wood smoked toast.

Fireworks figured too as did the inevitable injuries from misuse and showing off. Luckily non too serious as I recall.

On the night there would be parents supervising. Some would bring toffee apples, bonfire toffee, and all manner of sweet junk designed to trash your teeth. But we scoffed it all the same. What I remember was the community spirit; it was a really good enjoyable evening. Everyone would go home exhausted and smelling of smoke and slightly sooty.

Some bonfires would still be smouldering the following day and would often be rekindled, so you had somewhere to hang out in the evening. November evenings wer cold and at that time I remember the fog was very bad most years and usually started in November.

Not being able to see your hand in front of you was literally true. Coal fires didn’t help.

The buses would come by like ghosts in the night and everything was eerily quiet. The air was sodden and your clothes would be too. No wonder at school lots of kids seemed to forever have a cold. Unlike today, getting a day off school with a cold was unheard of. Gerrof a bit of hard wok at school waint ot yer, yerve ony gorra coad.