Hook-A-Duck

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I walked across Woodbank Park armed with a folding chair and a burrito in a Tupperware box. A rare thing then happened, the sun shone. Not something I expected after weeks of nonstop rain. I made my way through lots of runners taking part in parkrun and meandered through car boots being emptied of unwanted bric-a-brac. I finally found what I was looking for - three ladies in hi-vis jackets. My timing was perfect they had already erected the gazebo, set up our stall full of teddy bears and filled up the hook-a-duck pool. The ducks were happily swimming around. There was only one thing left to do and that was set up my folding chair. I was here to help fund raise for the Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund at Stockport Carnival. The summer is full of volunteering opportunities to help out at schools, churches and local groups, each looking to raise awareness or funds for good causes. It helps to know some nifty knitters or a few crafty bakers so you can sell things on your stall. We didn't have any of those, so instead we had gone for the fundraising secret weapon, the tombola. In order to stand out from the crowd we had chosen our prizes to be teddies, lots of teddies. Hook-a-duck is a real crowd pleaser. I have happy childhood memories of trying to win a goldfish at Daisy Nook fair every Easter. The parade wasn't due to arrive in the field until 2 o'clock but we were ready to go well before 10. This gave us chance to walk around the stalls and have a quick look at the car boot sale. Even though the sun was shining a large black cloud loomed over the proceedings. Many other charities and local businesses were setting up their stalls. Arriving early meant that we could grab a coffee and say hello to the other stallholders. Lots were volunteers too hoping to raise money for their chosen charity from Cancer charities to the British Heart Foundation. Several people came to visit our stall and one of our first customers won three teddy bears from her five tombola tickets.

As more and more people arrived the toddlers in particular flocked towards the hook-a-duck pool. I was helping to run this particular part of our stall. The object of the game was to either hook one duck or three and each duck was marked with either a number or a star. The star was our star prize, a goody bag with a duck or duck sounding whistle. The numbers meant you could win a small prize of your choice. It soon became clear that the children were more interested in hooking ducks than the prizes.

At first my main job was to stop the children accidentally poking someone behind them, normally their brother or sister with the back of the stick. Several times I had to ensure that the child was using the hook end of the stick. Then there was the coaching, to hold the stick in a certain way and with both hands. Otherwise several long minutes passed and ducks happily swam from side to side but weren’t hooked. Frustrated family members looked on. One little boy was concentrating so hard that he leant forward to such a degree that he stumbled into the pond. Luckily the pond was about an inch deep and his mum hooked him out, with her arm I might add, and it didn’t appear he was marked with a number or a star, which was a shame. Just before the parade arrived I managed eat my burrito and enjoy a white wine spritzer. Unfortunately I then needed to use the facilities. You haven't thoroughly experienced a carnival unless you have sat in a port-a-loo hoping the door doesn't fly open and show an entire field full of people what you have been doing in there. It was only when I got out I realised I had used the port-a-loo in the Carnival Queen's backstage area. Well at least the Queens hadn't arrived yet and thankfully the door didn't open.

We were tipped off that the parade had possibly arrived when a giant bird turned up, with it several hundred people in costumes. Suddenly the park was full of people carrying balloons as they ate ice cream and candyfloss. Many stopped to give hook-a-duck a go and it got quite frantic. Some ducks had emergency sticky tape surgery as they started to lilt to one side and in one case sank. At one point a wasp fell in the pond and was scooped out by one of the volunteers just as several children were chasing ducks around the pond. It was really good fun and with several hundred pounds raised for our charity. I was very pleased. I packed up my folding chair and empty Tupperware box and headed home.