The locals keep telling us how fortunate we are with this spring’s weather, to which my silent reply is that the English are most unfortunate with theirs. Our home town Brisbane’s coldest month is July, in which the mean maximum is 20.9, a temperature which we have yet to enjoy here.

On the other hand, anything less than sleet in a howling gale is considered fine in Pommyland. We have at least been spared that so far, unlike May last year when it apparently snowed in Cambridge, our base for the Easter term. As English’s finest wrote in sonnet 18 (Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?):

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date;

The sun’s gold complexion is indeed often dimm’d here, as Shakespeare continues in the same piece.

The MPs’ reimbursement rorts are the most recent disaster to befall British public life. OK, so we are currently trouncing the Windies in the tests and various shorter forms of cricket, one almost hears the English say to themselves, but that is just a cruel prelude to the thrashing we expect from the Mongoose-wielding Aussies this summer. The Mongoose is the confounded new bat that owes more to baseball than to Bradman.

With all this scandal, apparent fraud and premonition of cricketing doom, we see the truth of Pink Floyd’s observation that “Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way”. So everyone has been following with stunned bemusement the fortunes of the duck house that Tory MP Peter Viggers bought with £1,645 of taxpayers’ funds.

The Daily Telegraph reports Lincolnshire duck breeder Bas Clarke’s dismay at the design Viggers chose, the “Stockholm Duck Island”.

“It’s just not suitable for ducks,” he says.

“The door is far too big. Ducks much prefer feeling snug, so smaller entrances are better. They like to squeeze through them and then they feel secure. Also, with an entrance that big, crows and magpies can easily get in and take eggs and ducklings. Frankly, it’s ridiculous.”

Here’s a pic of the duck mansion with a resident on its doorstop so you can judge for yourself.

The duck house is so big it can be seen from space on Google earth. But the duck house is no longer on its lake. Indeed, it transpires that Bas the duck breeder is right and the duck house is too big. The owner Viggers says that the duck house “was never liked by the ducks and is now in storage”.

So with the duck house story now concluded the English are searching for another diversion from gloom.

Failing that, they are hanging on in quiet desperation in the English way.

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Peter Fray

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