Bread

I’ve written before about our local pond; mostly my observations about ducks and their offspring, oh, and there was the slightly ungainly goose I named Ewan.

There isn’t much to it; a round of tired concrete, a few benches with surrounding cherry and sycamores. Old folk sit, the ice-cream man visits at weekends when the weather is good.

Most recently signs were erected, tastefully done with a leafy background requesting that visitors not feed the birds bread. It explains the harms associated with carbohydrate loading in ducks and geese – obesity, arthritis, difficulty surviving the winter and suggests alternatives – shop-bought bird food, grain, millet. Ducks love millet.

Today I found a woman throwing little scraps of white Hovis to the birds; like children they don’t know that what tastes so good is bad for them, they just get the gluten-hit and paddle-off.

I double-checked the sign, considered whether I should say something, and, walked by. I didn’t smile.

Funnily, the podcast itself was about the birth of the McDonald’s French Fry in the 1990’s – beginning with the original production-line milkshake story in San Bernadino in the 1940’s. You can get it here.

It seems that a guy called Sokolov, after suffering a heart attack in his early forties went on a crusade against saturated fat and ultimately made the food chain, and others across the US switch from saturated beef fat to vegetable oil for chip (fry) preparation; this led to a whole number of unforeseen complications the least of which was the inadvertent generation of combustible clothing and aerosolised formalin.

I didn’t say anything to the woman; I am always troubled when I see someone pointing-out the obvious to another; putting aside the gender issue, which I think is a thing i.e. man asking woman to stop feeding the birds and man vs man or woman vs woman or woman vs man, no, this isn’t a gender politics subject, it is the whole unknown of what the woman is experiencing – where she is at and how she might take it; strange guy with albeit friendly dog lecturing on fowl nutrition at five on a Sunday afternoon.

I have the same issue at work when I see bad behaviour; there is the bad, bad behaviour, perhaps someone saying or doing something that is hurting a patient – I think in this instance we are all happy to step-in and say or do something (the risks of inaction are greater than the theoretical hazards of action); it is the more subtle situations – porter with patient bumping along corridor, catering staff talking too fast for old person to determine the menu, doctor with impenetrable handwriting or accent.

Sure, there is a correct way to do this – not dressing-down in public, taking the person aside afterwards, asking them about their actions, probing, analysing, yet, in a hospital environment that is one big cauldron of business and clinical activity, this is often not possible, and things are forgotten.

I see a connection between the low-fat chip, the bread-eating duck and the too-loud nurse; you can do something, say something, but there is always a risk of causing offence, equally, and particularly as was the case with the chips, you risk unintended consequences – fat-fried potato versus vegetable oil; stodgy versus crisp and fluffy.

It is important not to over-analyse our actions, to achieve a certain level of spontaneity, considering the feelings of others, their state of mind and situation is equally important.

Years ago, a friend bought me a book on assertiveness; you could construe these un-actions the result of someone who cannot assert themselves; I don’t think it is that, I think it is something within the realm of over-concern for the inner-state of others, which of course, is always unknowable.

When in doubt act, goes the aphorism; not always.

indian runner duck.jpg

3 comments

  1. Absolutely, judge each situation as best you can individually. Undesirable small habits though can be observed and repeated by others, seeing that they seem to be acceptable in practice. The assessment tool developed from malignant psychology versus person-centred care seems to have been dropped quite soon. Perhaps difficult aftermath for staff.
    Aerosolised formalin? Strange thought.
    Love the pictures of the ‘ kid ‘ and the goose.

    Liked by 1 person

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