You Had One Job

There’s never a dull day at my job. As a porter at one of Cambridge’s oldest colleges, I’ve just about seen it all: tourists sliding past the “College Closed to Visitors” sign to gawp at our admittedly impressive architecture; non-University townsfolk sneaking into our cellar bar, inebriated students stumbling back at 3am. Just last week I witnessed a student vomit and piss simultaneously. I would have been impressed had it not ruined my uniform.

I prefer a passive involvement in university life. I’m more than happy to sit in my lodge by the college entrance hearing stories of what has happened here and further afield. However, sometimes I have no option but to get actively involved. It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does it’s often the talking point of the city. Take yesterday, for example. There I was alone in the porters lodge, halfway through my morning coffee, black no sugar, when my walkie-talkie crackled into life.

It’s Bruce, the gardener “Mike, are you there? Stella’s just left her hideaway and is heading towards you”

“Oh bollocks. Right, can you just walk behind her while I place some phone calls?

“Roger that. You’d better hurry though, she’s nearly cleared the lawn”

No sooner had I finished on the blower, Bruce approached my window.

“She’s all yours mate”

I looked down, and sure enough there was Stella, confidently waddling through the entrance arch to the pavement outside, her numerous offspring stumbling behind her. I did a quick count. Nine of them. Bloody hell, there must have been no room to move in the nest. I counted again just to be sure. Nine tiny yellow ducklings followed their mother.

Stella knows the drill. We all do, thanks to our annual training. It’s time for her pilgrimage towards the river, where she will cast her ducklings off into the big wide world. It’s an easy five minute stroll for a human, significantly longer for a duck. Between us and the river are many obstacles for ducklings: two roads, four grassy courtyards and many stone steps. Undeterred, Stella marches on. We’re now out on the street. A crowd has drawn as people stop and watch this mother duck leading her offspring across the road. The busker who infamously plays his banjo from inside an especially commissioned bin shouts out, annoyed to no longer be the centre of attention.

Despite the shortcuts I’d guaranteed for her earlier, It takes Stella about an hour to reach her destination. She marched up the halfway steps, not even stopping as her chicks fell back over each other, struggling to climb the sheer stone faces. As the river came into view, I noticed the reporters gathered on the bank to document her journey for the local paper. Stella ignored them, focussed on one thing only. At long last, Stella reached the waters edge.

Mission accomplished, I watched with pride as Stella jumped into the water, closely followed by her eight chicks.

Oh shit.



By day, Hattie Logan works as a Specialist Biomedical Scientist for the NHS. Originally from Up North, she currently lives Down South (traitor!) with her husband and her many houseplants.