I asked again.
"What shall I photograph today?"
The answer came back straight away, no hesitation.
Today I had got up feeling less than well. Tonight, with bedtime not too far away, I feel less than well. My plans for excursions into the big world today were as follows: Walk for a few minutes. Reach Aldi. Buy some things. Return home. That was it. Finished. And it's fair to say that between home and Aldi, in the course of a few short streets, I don't often see a duck.
But my head couldn't let it rest. I didn't want to search the house for a toy duck. We used to have one called Jake. I didn't want to (cheat/think laterally) and provide a photo of a bottle of Toilet Duck. I didn't want to stick on a Looney Tunes DVD and take a picture of Daffy Duck. My head wasn't accepting any of these perfectly acceptable solutions to the challenge.
In deciding to stay home apart from a quick shopping trip for bread and milk I had made a mistake. Just like John Abruzzi. And just like him, I found I needed a duck.
I would have to go further. Ignore the encroaching grip of minor illness and head off on a minor adventure. My head formed a plan. Three places within reach of the same city centre Metro station where I might, with luck, see a duck. So I caught the Metro to Haymarket (for city centre shopping and local bus services) and began my quest.
My eye was immediately caught by a figure with wings. Just like a duck. But not a duck.
I stepped into a church. That of Saint Thomas the Martyr. But I couldn't find a duck there. I did find a really good book of poetry and something about Quaker history. These books were more than ample compensation for not finding a duck. In all honesty I would have been surprised by ducks there. The people of that church are decent. It was the first Anglican church in this diocese to officially become an inclusive church. They are very into social justice. In addition the Progressive Christian Network meets there regularly. The preachers I met while searching for a pink flamingo would not apply the word Christian to that network. But if I see the light of Christ, I see it far more in the PCN. Because they embrace humanity, embrace the beauty of this life, and they smile a whole lot more. Good people.
I walked on and encountered this sight. No ducks here but I was hoping that I would find ducks in the water at the nearby Civic Centre.
On the way I passed this pillar, marked with the three castle emblem of the city. The pillar is one of several that was erected to mark the boundaries of the Town Moor. It is there to remind we good citizens of Newcastle Upon Tyne of the extent of our heritage. Although none of us may think this is close to the moor at all, it's actually at the corner which means that quite a few University buildings are on the moor. That's my excuse for walking into a couple of them today even though I had no reason to be in them at all.
Heading closer to the water. Almost there. I passed this quite ugly block of concrete. An ugly block. Perhaps a fitting memorial to the visit of President Jimmy Carter. Perhaps not. He is a democrat but not a duck. He was a wise President. After all, pretty much the first place he wanted to visit was Newcastle. Very wise indeed.
From that plaque I reached the water. And on the water I found some birds. I knew they were there. I have included them in a post before. But they're not ducks. They are five swans, representing the nations of Scandinavia in the order in which they embraced democracy. Iceland is the head swan.
That water had been the first of my three hopes for where I might find a duck. The first had been thwarted by the society of ducks who had chosen to fly elsewhere today. I walked on, still very buoyant because I had strong hopes that there would be ducks in the second location.
The next animal I encountered on my quest was also not a duck. Here is a sign that you might not expect to see in the middle of a city in the north of England:
As for me I did expect to see it. Because I had seen it before and had made a special point of seeing it today. I did not climb on the rhinoceros. As I sit here Blob is telling me off because he says I should have let him climb on the magnificent beast. Maybe he's right. I know he wants to go back to lots of the places we went today. I will let him ride the rhino. Winefride can ride too, her reins safely round the rhino's horns.
Turning, I saw this building. This is the Hancock Museum, or as it is now known The Great North Museum: Hancock. I had a thought. Maybe I would be able to find a duck in the museum.
I walked into the museum and saw above me the first of many non-duck creatures I was to encounter there.
And then, frighteningly, this creature from the nightmares of the sea.
Having escaped that fearsome looking beast - a simple enough task since it was both encased in glass and dead - I entered Roman Britain and there laid before me was the course of Hadrian's Wall.
And having left behind the Christian house of worship so recently, I now fell into another cultus and entered the house of Mithras.
Before moving on I must show you this. Two days ago one of my challenges was to photograph a butterfly. If only I had been in the Hancock Museum. I would have nailed the challenge with this multitude of creatures. You can get a butterfly too, with your name on it, in return for some cash. It's a fair enough request - the museum is free to enter and it needs funds from somewhere.
Since I'm showing you the butterfly wall I will tell you this too. You may remember, if your memory is better than mine, that on Friday I had accepted three quests but refused another. The refused quest was to photograph a smoker smoking by a no smoking sign. Today I completed that quest, purposefully heading to a location where such a sight is sometimes possible.
You will have to believe me because it doesn't show up well. There is a lit cigarette in her hand. I have scrambled her face to save any embarrassment in case someone was to see the photo and recognise her. Quest completed.
That quest, yes. But not the quest for the duck! And everywhere I turned there were more animals. It was beginning to feel like the flamingo challenge all over again. Every possible animal except for a duck. Some of the animals were even extinct.
Others lacked many of the usual attributes of a duck. This one had no wings, no feathers. It didn't even have legs.
And then my luck changed a little. I kept finding more animals and some of them were much closer to being a duck. They had legs. They had feathers. They had wings. These were birds. Birds!
But they weren't ducks.
And then there was this one. It looks a lot like a duck. I got very excited.
But the sign said it wasn't a duck. When is a duck not a duck? When it's a whatever this was. In my distress I didn't stop to write down what it was called.
I saw a lot more animals in the museum. Many of them come from that common Victorian practice of capturing wild animals and stuffing them for display. We've nearly wiped out tigers. The one on display in the museum was one of the early tigers to be killed for the enjoyment of Europeans.
Many animals. No duck. My challenge was not yet over. Would it ever be? I will write of that next time. The culmination of my challenge. And a lot of other photos too because I saw so much of interest or of beauty today.
Without the challenge I would have stayed at home feeling a bit sorry for myself. There's just a chance that I will be doing that tomorrow. I hope not. There are things I want to do. Things that don't involve ducks. And just at the moment I have just enough brain functionality to be able to do them. Just about.