Approaching Duck Armada Puts Auntie in a Dither

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For some unspecified post-official reason, Auntie Polly's communication about the plastic toy ducks only reached me the other day. It was postmarked way back in the latter part of November. Must have been in someone's pocket.

Her concern, in spite of the time lapse, still speaks with a degree of poignancy. It was during a side trip in London that she noticed a brief report in the Times. I missed it altogether. The item apparently referred to some 29,000 toy ducks, turtles, beavers, and frogs. Originally transported by a container ship, they were washed overboard in the north Pacific. In January 1992. They have been floating around on the world's tides ever since.

The point that really grabbed Auntie's heartfelt attention was that some sort of computer simulation tracking system had concluded that the said toy-consignment was now heading for the beaches of Great Britain. Auntie wrote that she couldn't help visualizing ''the cat fights that would break out on the shore as people tried to grab as many toys as possible.'' And she also felt that if she, personally, had ''been waiting for the toys and they [had] never arrived,'' she would have been ''quite heartbroken.''

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It is not the first time, I have to say, that I have observed in Aunt Paulina's usually sentimental attitudes a touch of cynicism.

I mean, why does she assume that the innocuous natives of ''this precious stone set in the silver sea'' would be so instantly avaricious duckwise as to bundle thousands of them and their sea-worthy plastic friends into large sacks determined to sell them at 100 percent profit in Wednesday markets throughout the land? Why would these child-loving (not to mention duck-loving) people not spare a thought for the deprived infants of the north Pacific, now so long frogless, beaverless, duckless, and turtleless?

Surely, they would immediately think of donating this influx of oceanic booty to Oxfam? And I must say I think that the said aunt might have assumed at least that degree of charity in the scavengers of Filey, Eastbourne, or wherever the plastic armada runs aground.

The only thing is: Has it run aground?

Evidently not. There has been no follow-up as far as I know. Only silence. Typical of the news media, they give us a fascinating story one day, only to drop it the next; and then they never to mention it again. Surely, this is a story to follow up, not abandon. But where are the hordes of waiting reporters at strategic points along the British coastline? Where are the paparazzi? The TV crews?

I do think it was nice of Auntie to feel sorry for the toy-expectant children. But on the other hand, if you were a plastic duck, what would you like best? A life at large on the ocean waves or the confines of a north Pacific bathtub in which, heaven knows, you may well have to undergo repeated nightly drownings at the hands of some inconsiderate baby who sees you as nothing more than a plaything?

Maybe there are times when to be washed overboard is a preferable alternative, whatever oversensitive aunts may feel.

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