I was hanging the washing up the other day when I felt a sharp little sting on my thigh. Bother I thought rubbing it – one of those random nerve things. After two or three I looked down and realised that my shoes were crawling with ants. I’m too old to do that shrieking and jumping up and down that I used to do when things crawled all over me but really, ants in my trousers are an ant too far. So I rushed indoors and removed the trousers and shoes and callously flattened all three ants that were in there. Not a really buddhist type, me. Though I did refrain from killing the ones on my shoes. And of course you can see how an ant running up that dark interesting space might feel obliged to bite when the space suddenly flattens itself and crushes.
I well remember an occasion when I was being collected for work (waitressing and chambermaiding at a Devon cafe) by my friend and her mother. I had pushed my bike under an overhanging elder tree in an old quarry – quite safe from accidental discovery. But as I sat in the car I discovered things, moving around in my hair and right in front of my eye a very close up and personal blurry red ant. They’re big, those buggers! And there were hundreds of them. In fact both me and the tree (and the bike I suppose but I don’t remember what I did about that) were dripping with large, disturbed, swiftly crawling, red monsters. It isn’t possible to jump up and down in a car but I did a bit of shrieking alright.
And once, when the children were small, Mrs Middle sat on an ants’ nest – such a nice neat mound, exactly her height. The other two found it funny but really it wasn’t at all funny, poor little soul.
One way or another you learn that calm removal is the best way to deal with insect life. I learnt it when Barney made it clear that he wasn’t ever going to touch Daddy Long Legs’s not if it was ever so. And he’d like them removed asap please. Funny what turns you isn’t it. Actually he doesn’t do spiders either and only does wasps with a rolled up newspaper. It seems to me that wasps rarely bother with people at all unless you actually sit on them or put your hand on them but, probably because they are dangerous, they don’t need the instant transportation system that flies have – they’re just not as scared of us as flies – so they quite often get sat on and squashed and people are within their rights to find wasps a bit scary. A tiny thing that buzzes and turns right back at you is always unpleasant. It’s best to be polite! Because however much we don’t like them, they really do serve a purpose in the ecology and we do need them – probably as much as bees. Ants too. And also, I suppose, cock-chafer/June/May bug thingies which are my personal shriek-jump-up-and-down béte noir. (I don’t shriek etc etc any more but if one gets in the house I want to. Actually there weren’t many this year. Wrong kind of weather?)
Anyway, the other week a bee found its way into my Alexander lesson. It was only after several minutes of discussion about bees and wasps and such like that I realised the poor chap wanted it out and didn’t know how to deal with it. So I got a glass from him and put the bee out, unharmed. An interesting side effect of Alexander – your body language becomes slightly muted. People don’t immediately see that you’re scared!
On the subject of small and slightly unlovable life, I took some cheques to the bank on the same day as the ant event and when I brought the paying-in book out of my bag, both I and the cashier were taken aback to see a healthy looking snail clinging to it. No matter how hard I think, I can’t see how it got there unless it’s been living in the house. I was impressed by the cashier’s lack of reaction though, clearly he didn’t mind snails (or banking has an effect, similar to that of Alexander Technique, on body language).
Wandering along, as my mind often does, I had thoughts about eating snails* and other wildlife in case of apocalypse. Of course you can eat hedgehogs (only they seem to have virtually disappeared from the British landscape unlike the slugs who seem to survive the poison that kills off hedgehogs) and nettles and we were all taught about the Germans eating rats in some siege or other in the Great War. Dog is well known on the unwanted chinese restaurant menu along with birds nests (though we don’t have that kind of bird here). And if you watch that celeb programme which I can’t immediately recall*, I’ve no doubt that you could learn of lots and lots of extremely unpleasant things that could keep you alive – if they didn’t kill you. And mushrooms (etc and ditto) of course. And pheasant. In general, the majority of people wouldn’t have a clue about catching dinner if it could run, jump or fly but pheasants are currently plentiful and stupid.
Anyway, I looked up English snails, as dinner. You can eat them as long as you deal with any unwanted elements in their diet first. I am so impressed that snails can plan an escape from a lidded container! And this reminds me of an old English recipe for Pike. You put your pike in a tank full of fresh water and starve it for (?) a period of time, changing the water daily. Then when it’s system has been thoroughly purged of mud and unpleasant stuff which lives in rivers, you tip in some carrots and onions and herbs and maybe a dash of salt and pepper. The hungry pike wolfs the lot (not for nothing are they considered the wolf of the rivers – they gobble first and consider afterwards) and immediately, you fish it out and kill it and cook it. Stuffed pike!
Of course you can eat ants. Fried, dipped in chocolate, in a coconut sauce*** – all kinds of ways.Though to get a meal out of our of the normal, small, black variety you’d have to decimate the population. You might not be eating them for long.
Something slightly creepy about the endearment “little sausage” isn’t there.
*Slightly vengeful thoughts maybe?
**Carry me out of here? Screaming or throwing up.
***I made that up – but why not?
Yay, I got my teeth scraped and it didnt hurt!
At the weekend*, lovely Thursday and Joe Brown came over from The Little Country and we were joined at the pub by a dear, mutual friend from London. Better than Christmas! Lots of people turned up to see them and then later, mutual friend and I sat and chatted till the medium hours (we were tired before the hours got very small). I did wonder if I was just anesthetized this afternoon at the hygienist’s from all the wine we drank. Oh and on Saturday, Barney and I cleared away the last heaps of chairs and the gazebos from the Fest so the lawn looks nice and tidy. An excellent weekend altogether.
Then on Wednesday we went out for dinner. We’ve been intending to do it for weeks and weeks but stuff happened. It was very nice – we went to a local pub which is under new management and had haddock with a vanilla and squid sauce** and lamb with sweetbreads. Pricey though. We’d been hoping it might turn out to be a nice local place that we could just pop out to now and then but at those prices it would be more of a special occasion venue. Oh well.
And tomorrow, we are invited to Little Middle’s third birthday party. She’s formally invited me several times and has also ‘decorated’ individual party invites for both of us. She’ll make a good hostess one day! She clearly enjoys all the little details.
I’ve been trawling through photos again too. It occurred to me that there are birthdays coming up and I need new cards on Red Bubble. Goodness, it takes for ever to upload them. and to think of (slightly) intelligent things to say about them. I’ve been a bit slow on the photo front. Usually I get through a trip’s worth within a few days but some of the trips came a bit close together this year.
Anyway, here’s a couple from Dubrovnik – you may get bored with the city before I do!
The view through the window (of the Rupe Ethnographic Museum) taken sneakily with the iphone. the museums were all policed by unsmiling, uniformed ladies to prevent us behaving badly!
Oops, I’d better go and get a small person’s birthday present. I’m making her some bead bracelets – since I mentioned this possibility she has assured me regularly that I will be making a bracelet for her “like that one”. So that’s at least six!
And since I didn’t get round to posting on Friday, I’ll tell you, we went to her birthday party at the Rectory Farm PYO and she liked her bracelets. Also immediately shared them with Charlotte – one of her guests – and offered them to other people with larger wrists to try. We enjoyed watching the various small guests and seeing the larger ones and came home laden with huge boxes full of veg. It was a very good occasion altogether only slightly marred by the failure of Youngest to find us. Later I spoke to her and she told me some of the places she had driven through on her journey and I can only assume that she has a sort of topographical dyslexia. But eventually, she found her way home.
*That was last weekend. This weekend – Oh, I’m going to add it to the post. Ignore this *
**I swore I’d never have squid ink again after an unpleasant meal in Venice years ago and I still feel twitchy about black food but I didn’t notice it on the menu which is fine. It’s always good to acquire a new flavour.
****completely rhetorical. I don’t know so why on earth should you.
As I am a non-working person and therefore, presumably,* have time on my hands, I have quite often found myself heading to the rescue of sick relatives. Well two or three times anyway.
Anyway, this time it was my sister who is 87, has recently had a severe chest infection and then a fall in the night. And it seems her heart is giving out as well. So after hearing all this on the phone from my niece, I trundled up the M6, rather expecting to find a frail, fragile creature, fading away before my very eyes. Indeed I felt impelled to drive quite fast (but then spoiled that by taking a very complicated detour through the hills and getting lost in Stoke on Trent.)
So I arrived and tiptoed in through my sister’s door expecting to be whispering at a deathbed. Not a bit of it.
I’m proud to say that she’s absolutely on the ball, tremendously determined and completely unaware that there might be a reaper waiting in the wings. As for whispering – well, she’s a bit deaf, so after shouting for ten minutes at each other we agreed that the purchase of new hearing aid batteries was an urgent task. (Well, I agreed that it was and she seemed resigned when I obtained them after an awful lot of faffing around as they are fairly old and had no codes for clinic staff to look up).
She’s still possessed of a mordant sense of humour and not particularly embarrassed to let the whole world hear it. To be fair, I think she was beginning to recover from the shock of the fall anyway and by the time I left, she was eating about three times as much as when I arrived and the day after I came, she sat up in an armchair for a good hour. I think it exhausted her but she was certainly pleased to have done it.
I am full of admiration for my sister. She does what the doctors tell her and instructs her son and daughter in minute detail about her needs because she can do very little herself – of course, they are being run ragged but my feeling is that for someone who has had a long, hard and mostly thankless life, she’s to be celebrated for demanding things still. And she’s remarkably patient about her complicated requirements. What she does do for herself is enormously hard work and painful but she tackles it with stoicism and fortitude. If it was me (when it’s me?) I would tackle it all with outrage and lots of glasses of wine but sadly, she doesn’t like wine and instead of outrage, she feels a little bewildered by her situation.
When I set off, I thought this might be a last visit but now I think I’ll be going back in a few weeks to do it again. Both hopeful and mildly problematic. Oh well. Sister would say you just have to get on with it and so I will! Anyway, I’ve come home with a copy of her ‘memoirs’. It makes fascinating reading – not least because her voice comes over on every page. I am transported into an earlier era and have been confronted with some surprising insights about my family’s life!
Sadly though, I’ve fell off the wagon. Not only did Mr and Youngest (who inspired me to stop) go back to smoking but there has been stress – and of course once you’ve fallen, old habits gleefully leap up and grab you again. Never mind, my free repeat session is still available and I’m thankfully losing weight again. My knees and feet were beginning to give me a lot of trouble!**
Oh and naturally, some of my useful shopping expeditions took me up into the hills. Sort of. However helpful I was being, I couldn’t possibly miss a visit to the hills.
See? Tempting, distant hills! And then Errwood reservoir which is the setting for the climax of Alan Garner’s ‘Moon of Gomrath’.
And here be butterflies and harebells.
This brings me to another important matter! My sister in law, Barney*** Bardsley has written another book. As always it’s brilliant. It’s called Old Dog and I have absolutely no hesitation in recommending it as a lovely read. It’s the story of how her dog, Muffin, helped and accompanied the family through many appallingly difficult years. Me, I’m not at all into ‘nice dog’ books but this is a great deal more than that. The subject matter might sound tragic – an aging and ailing dog, husband dying of cancer and a nine year old girl left fatherless but Muffin is a little spirit of joy bounding through the pages, there are a variety of fascinating characters and Barney’s wonderfully rich and vivid prose is always a delight.
A last hill or two
Now I must wrestle with the green dustbin. I really wish they’d empty it weekly. Even though the food is going into the black bin on alternate weeks all this heat is creating a dreadfully smelly and horribly lively problem.
**What I mean is that they’re giving me a lot more trouble. It’s quite possible that losing weight won’t help as much as I optimistically imagine.
***All the siblings called themselves Barney at one time or another – none of them is really called that at all!
Several years ago – in 2004 to be exact – we went to the funeral of a very dear Aunt and met a large number of family that we’d never met before and who were all amazingly nice. On the way home, Youngest said, “we ought to arrange family gatherings that aren’t for funerals! Otherwise we’ll never see most of those people unless somebody dies!”
So in 2005 we did that and we’ve done it every year since – as we have a biggish garden and house we managed to fit quite a lot of people in, either in tents or squeezed into the house. And over the years, some people have dropped out of sight and some have brought new partners to join the family and then babies who have grown and become toddlers and then children.
Anyway, yesterday, lots of them came and the sun shone and the children ran about and paddled and splashed and looked after the tinies (a bit) and the two tiny girls held hands for a photo and one said to the other “are you my best friend?”. Meanwhile the grown-ups sat around, drinking and eating and chatting and cooing, from time to time, over the children. The sun shone until 5.30 and then a small but impressive rainstorm passed overhead and about half of everyone went indoors and the rest sat under the canvas and we all continued to eat and drink and chat.
Two of the grandparents and the sole teenager (a charming boy of nineteen , who first came when he was eleven and very shy), did lots and lots of washing up and everybody did loads of clearing away so once the food was cooked there really wasn’t much to to except enjoy the company.
At some point, we all worked out who was what kind of cousin to who and some children and grandparents did very entertaining impressions of Gene Kelly – with a little improvisation a brolly and very adventurous vocals. During the night, no one got struck by lightning or washed out and this morning Barney made breakfast for 18.
Later, those who hadn’t gone home went to the pub for lunch and it didn’t rain, again, for more than ten minutes or so. Really, it was brilliant. People are so nice.
Anyway, now there is only us and Eldest and GIGi, which is quite nice too as we don’t see them as often as we’d like.
Um, take a break – that was last weekend and I’ve been snowed under! I was quite sure that once the fest was over everything would go quiet but it didn’t. Most urgently, I had a call from my niece to say her Mum is in a bad way – she’s 87 and her heart is giving out. So frantic planning for a trip to the North – just in case. And in between, we’ve got our first gig for over a year tomorrow night and we needed to practice A LOT!
And the other night I sat down to catch up here – feeling a bit bad about leaving you all for so long without a word and halfway through visiting blogs, the internet crashed and couldn’t come back for days and days (well one day anyway). All fixed now but I’ve just got time to apologise yet again for not replying or commenting and then I must go and run about a bit. Um, well tomoorow I’ll run about. Tonight I’ll go to bed.
On the other hand, since I am going to the land of bogs and moors and hills, and since Elder Sister sleeps a lot, I may find time to wander around a bit with the camera.
Back soon, I hope.
Meanwhile, a quick pic of Mlini, where we stayed, in Croatia.