Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Baby bites book

Perhaps you would fancy an 'Ode to an Eider-Duck' 
Telling his praises with never a pause:
How he was born a duck, lived - yes, and died a duck,
Hampered by nature's inscrutable laws.
(AA Milne, written when he was a schoolboy, from a poem quoted in his autobiography, It's Too Late Now.)

One of the highlights of my day, most days, is going down to the creek to feed the ducks. Often I think how ducky they are, how happy to simply be ducks - and just as well, as they will never be anything else.

My turning up is greeted with such excitement (it's the food I bring - poultry grain mix). Little Duck honks, and Pierre, her paramour, often get out of the water and waddles around with his friends, one or two wild ducks (Pacific Black Ducks), so happy are they to see me.

Just recently I remembered this verse on the destiny of simply being a duck. It's part of a longer poem quoted in AA Milne's autobiography, It's Too Late Now (1939).

 'The title,' he said,  'means that heredity and environment make the child, and the child makes the man, and the man makes the writer; so it's too late now ... for me to be a different writer.'

You are what you are (just like the ducks).

I bought my old copy (not a first edition, but a third, still printed in the year of first publication, 1939) almost 30 years ago, at the height of my interest in children's literature, from an antiquarian bookseller.

Here it is, photographed just now on the window-sill of the attic in bright dappled winter sunlight. Almost half way down the spine there is a small piece  out of the dust-jacket, where my baby bit into the book. I kept the piece stuck in with tape, but that has aged and fallen off over time. My baby turned 28 last month.

I think now that the reason I like this book so much is because it has the imprint of my baby's infant teeth. Some people save the first pair of booties - I have a book with baby teeth marks.


  1. Totally perfect. I shall now look on the destruction wrought by my little ones on my stuff with new eyes...

    1. ... and it wasn't an inexpensive book, Jongleuse. My first thought was that it had just been devalued (but then, look at the way I've kept it - it was once pristine). And then I thought of how it had added to the value to me.