If you are wondering why every piece of my artwork features a rubber duck hiding somewhere in it, well, let me introduce you...
Ducky is a thermometer and my long time open water swim buddy. He tells me the temperature of the water, which is a bit of an obsession to open water swimmers - a bit like the weather to the British.
When I’m in the water, I wear a tow float, an important safety device which is basically a dayglo orange balloon that makes me more visible in the water. Ducky is attached to the tow float by a piece of string, and he happily follows on behind, or so I thought…
In the Spring of 2018, I finished a swim at a lake we call Carolines, to find there was no Ducky on the end of the string!! He’d made a break for it somewhere in the vastness of the lake. My friends laughed and said it was the nesting season so he’d obviously gone off in search of the ladies.
I was absolutely gutted. He might’ve only cost a tenner, but that duck had shared all my adventures for years. He was a bit of a local celebrity too as other swimmers often asked what Ducky had to say.
So I looked everywhere for him, but I couldn’t find him. It was like looking for a needle in a haystack. Eventually as I was getting cold, I reluctanlty decided to leave him to it and go home.
I couldn’t stop thinking about him all night though. What if he was cold and frightened?
The following morning I created a 'wanted' poster and posted it to a Facebook group of swimmers who go to that lake. I even offered a reward for his safe return. It got lots of comments, and laughs, and folk saying they would look out for him, but that I should just buy another. They clearly didn't understand my attachment to the bit of yellow plastic.
So, the following evening my partner suggested we take a walk around the lake with his binoculars to see if we could find him. I thought he was being ridiculous – the lake is huge, but I thought it was a nice evening, so there was nothing to lose and off we went.
We searched and searched, but it was impossible to spot a tiny yellow duck in a lake with a circumference of a mile. However, as we took a break from looking and stopped to admire the sunset, my partner glanced down in the reeds at our feet, and there he spotted a yellow dot - he looked closer and there he was... DUCKY, lying on his side - clearly exhausted!! We waded in and rescued him. I knew he was mine because the digital display was still working – and anyway, I’d recognise him anywhere! I couldn’t believe it. REUNITED!!!
That particular lake had inspired me to start painting again after a break of decades, and so now every piece I do has Ducky hiding in it somewhere. Sometimes he's more obvious than others, and sometimes you really have to search for him - just like we did!
So there you go – that’s what the rubber duck is all about. He’s a special little fella.
Follow the hashtag #lookfortheduck on social media.