Monday, 1 November 2010


On Saturday morning I was rushing around getting ready to go over to see my Mum. Late as usual. There was a knock on the door. I opened it to a little Welshman with a broad grin on his face. He is the archetypal retired Welsh farmer; about my height, round, cheerful face, late 70s, walking stick, clean 3rd best suit and a flat cap.

He has been calling upon me about once a month since early Summer.

He stands on the doorstep and we talk about ducks. Specifically my ducks. The ever-growing flock of juvenile muscovies that clutter up the place like so many indolent teenagers in a shopping mall on a wet weekend. Occasionally he throws a few Welsh words at me to test my knowledge, but so far I have passed the test.

Mostly we talk about ducks.
He may have introduced himself the first time he appeared, but I don't recall, and it is equally probable that he didn't. I do remember, though, standing in the doorway with a fixed grin on my face, wondering why this man was talking to me about ducks. And could he please get to the point as I had work to do.
Eventually it percolated through that he might be interested in buying some - not that he ever said it in so many words.

At the time the only ducklings I had weren't feathered up, so they weren't ready to leave their mother. But in a roundabout way, he wondered what price I would sell them for if I were interested in selling. I suggested a figure and there was a sharp intake of breath, at which I felt compelled to explain how much it had cost them to feed them so far and how I would simply put them in the freezer if I couldn't find a buyer. This exchange was followed by a couple more minutes of pleasantries and then he left.

It is the Welsh way of negotiating and it drives me mad.
Don't mention a price. In fact don't even say that you are interested in buying in so many words while, at the same time, making it perfectly obvious that you are. Assume a slightly quizzical and expectant look. Then when the other person suggests a price, appear puzzled at the beginner's obvious miscalculation and then change the subject. At which point the poor person who didn't realise that they wanted to sell their ducks in the first place finds that they are completely on the back foot and start chuntering on, trying to defend their entirely reasonable price proposal.

Repeat at monthly intervals until the poor benighted duck owner, who knows deep down inside that she has too many beaks to feed and is almost certainly not going to be putting the excess, layabout drakes in the freezer any time soon, suggests a price that is way under the market value, but appears to be acceptable.

Shake hands on the deal and arrange to pick the birds up in a few days time. Go on your merry way, leaving the duck owner feeling ever so slightly steamrollered!

1 comment:

  1. I had no idea that was common practice in Wales! It certainly sounds very much like a number of European countries.