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Creativity in COVID time: Diccon lines up his ducks

Diccon Loxton's duck tableaus included a zoo, a recreation of ANZAC cove and the Melbourne Cup. Photo: Sandra Symons

By SANDRA SYMONS

Eminent Sydney lawyer Diccon Loxton, who lives in the inner city, has 500 ducks. Well, he thinks he has 500 ducks, give or take. At home. All well behaved.

Mr Loxton, who has developed an interest in ducks during the Covid pandemic, has, due to health concerns, imposed a lockdown on himself. He is committed to staying at home, not seeing work colleagues or friends. He has even isolated himself from some family members.

So what to do in his isolation. Initially he bought nine teddy bears and put them on the garden wall, the gates and hedge inspired by the international viral action based on the children’s book ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’. In it, people around the world put teddy bears on their fences and in their front windows so that during the pandemic children could “go on a bear hunt” during a walk in their neighbourhood.

“Our grandchildren enjoyed the bears. We had little bear hunts for them in the garden, but the bears on the wall and the gates were for neighbourhood children,” Mr Loxton says.

Then he had a light bulb moment when he saw his grandchildren having a great time playing in the bath – with ducks. 

Mr Loxton decided he would join the play, but in his own fashion. He went online and ordered one big duck and 54 little yellow ducks. He put them on display, mother duck and her many ducklings, on the gravel driveway, near the front gate, so they were easily seen by passers by.

That was early April and people started noticing and talking about the ducks. Mr Loxton knows because he could hear them from his front veranda, hidden from the street by a high stone wall and shrubbery.

Then he ordered 180 ducks, in job lots of 18 per packet from a party supply company. Then he ordered 234 more, then a further 72. By this time, the kitchen was full of ducks and Mr Loxton was embracing play time.

In May, he staged a wedding. It was a spectacular spectacle. The wedding itself, with bride and groom in full nuptial finery, was on May 2; the bridal waltz on May 5; reception on May 7; a going away event with ducky vehicle emblazoned with “Just Married” on May 8. The next door neighbours contributed a couple of large imposing chickens to throw the confetti.

He agrees with training consultant Andy Green, who writes about and gives training sessions on the important part creativity plays in our lives, who says, creativity is sometimes seen as a ‘nice-to-do-when-you-have-the-time’ luxury. 

But as Mr Loxton acknowledges, there’s probably not been such an urgent need in living memory to maximise one’s creativity as required now to respond resourcefully to Covid19. Certainly as it applies to him, anyway. 

While he no longer has to worry about the commute into the city every day, or office distractions, he still deals with a relentless flow of work emails and telephone calls. But, he says, the pandemic has allowed him space to play and exercise his imagination in different ways.

In exercising his new ways of thinking and doing, Diccon Loxton says his hunt for ducks has refined his computer skills. The intricacies of his job as a senior finance counsel at a prestigious city law firm are as nothing compared to the sourcing of hundreds of little yellow ducks and, most importantly, all the props needed to set them up into narrative ranks.

At first, his family left him to his ducky devices. He spent many hours considering the most creative way to deploy his ducks and then his wife Liz joined the project by helping “dress” the ducks.

Jean Marc Moncorger (author of Creativity – A New Look: Theory and Practice, plus Test Your Creativity) says being creative is child’s play – even if you must sometimes unlock certain, perhaps unfamiliar, parts of your brain to achieve, say, a May ducky wedding. 

Diccon Loxton is not sure he has rewired his brain but he certainly acknowledges the value of play and story telling, a world away from his legal life. As he sits at his kitchen table, he is always thinking up new plans. Inspiration comes from many quarters.

“In the past, our family always joined the Mother’s Day March around Mrs Macquarie’s Chair to raise money for breast cancer. We did it for five years,” he says.  

This year he did it with his ducks. Each and every duck was decked out with pink bows, with the mother duck leading the procession wearing a fascinator. 

The big challenge continues to be, what to do next. Diccon Loxton has marshalled his ducks for cricket games (to honour the Jane McGrath foundation), rugby, historical salutes to the pharaohs with pyramids and the Sphinx, the Beatles’ Australian tour and the throbbing crowd in Melbourne. He says his daughter deemed the crowd “too well behaved”.

From late June on, the ducks took to the water for water skiing and surf life saving events. Big crowds of spectator ducks turned up for those. There followed a medieval phase with King and Queen ducks, dressed by Liz Loxton, holding court. Everyone watched a jousting tournament in front of a castle and royal box made of Lego. St George and the Dragon appeared as did the Queen of Dragons from Game of Thrones. 

By the time August rolled around, Diccon Loxton had decided his ducks would commemorate the exploits of the Australian and New Zealand forces (the ANZACS) in the Gallipoli campaign leading into World War I. And so he established “Anzquack Cove” and launched 30 boats each containing 12 ducky combatants on the little cove he created on the driveway. Liz Loxton suggested using catering boats from a party supplier as ideal vessels for the ducks. 

The event may not have stopped a war but it stopped the foot traffic at the Loxtons’ front gate.  As the respectful murmurings from the gate indicated, Diccon Loxton’s duck assault was a great success. The next tableau focused on the actual landing with extra players – squirrels with nuts waving flags.

If the ducks had enough challenges to handle, Diccon Loxton had more. All tableaus had to be contained in an area that could comfortably fit under the family car as it came and went. There was the problem of the daily newspaper flying over the front gate into the middle of a joust or the family’s three big poodles swallowing the ducks.

After having created more than 20 scenarios, Diccon Loxton says he will keep going as he has at least three good ideas in mind. 

“It gives me lots of fun  and a great deal of satisfaction,” he says, adding that it is pleasing to know it is giving fun to the neighbourhood. And as his colleagues attest, it fulfils his quirky turn of mind. 

He is now turning his mind to a tableau based on the running of the bulls.

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