It’s half three on a balmy Thursday afternoon in August as I sit down to write this.
As so often before I’m forced to consider how well I’ve used my time today. How productive have I been?
I’m no mathematician but I think it breaks down roughly like this:
a) Time spent with son and family 6%
b) Time spent eating 4%
c) Time spent cleaning 0%
d) Time spent on afternoon nap 16% *
e) Time spent chasing wasps 74%
* For statistical accuracy it should be pointed out that the unusually low reading recorded for afternoon nap can be explained by the fact that it was interrupted by a wasp.
And this segues nicely into my main points. I love summer. I hate wasps.
It’s great to open the windows and the conservatory door, to feel that cooling breeze on the back of your neck as you work (work?! Ha ha).
The crab apples on my little tree have almost ripened. The first blackberries on the bush in the back garden are beginning to force their way through. There’s a pleasant lazy hint of Autumn on the breeze.
And there are 40 angry wasps in my house.
Wasps who seems to instinctively know that their lifespan is nearing its end and blame me for that unfortunate quirk of nature.
Of course nobody really likes wasps, but I have a special reason for my enmity. We have previous.
It was the day after my wedding. My wife and I were having a special honeymoon breakfast in a hotel high up the side of a mountain in southern Italy.
The panoramic views were magnificent. The world seemed a fine place as we sat there holding hands and smiling. There was no need for words.
And then the wasps struck.
I won’t recount the full episode but suffice to say it resulted in me losing my temper and hurling a mushroom omelette off the edge of a cliff yelling ‘Take the fecking thing if you want it that badly!’
So now you see. I’ve always carried a little bit of that day with me. It’s personal.
And there do seem to be an abundance of wasps around this summer. My wife’s recent birthday party in our back yard was continually disturbed by wasps seemingly intent on a revenge mission.
Eating outside is thus hazardous and if you open the windows to let the summer inside they arrive in swarms, thudding their dull little heads against the glass.
My neighbours across the road, if they happen to glance into my front window during the day, have every likelihood of seeing me jumping around, waving my arms manically and slapping the wall with a rolled up magazine.
I’ve decided if they ever ask me what I’m doing I’m going to tell them I’m a mime artist having a breakdown.
Yet despite it all I don’t really have any appetite for killing wasps and I’m trying to teach my son that all life is precious and should be respected.
I, however, failed spectacularly during a recent nursery school trip when I accompanied my son on the coach.
One of the young girls from his class screamed when she noticed a wasp on the coach window closest to her. A couple of the mummies reacted similarly.
And there was I, drunk with the exhilaration of the unusual position of being the alpha male, to come to the rescue.
Before I’d even thought about my actions I sprang to my feet and splattered the wasp between the window and my son’s schoolbag.
Then I turned and saw the faces of 30 children. Sixty innocent eyes staring at me. And their mummies too.
‘It’s OK kids, Willie the wasp is fine, just a little stunned. We’re actually good friends and this is a game we play.’
I tenderly carried him in a tissue and waved it out of the door of the coach to send him on his way.
Willie flew majestically into the air for a moment before plummeting hard onto the wet tarmac below. Dead.
I took my seat again.
‘Well kids, Willie’s gone off to play with his friends.’
The children looked at me doubtfully. My son just shook his head and looked out the window.
I haven’t been asked to go on any trips since.
I do try to usher the wasps which come into my house back out the window from but it never works.
My little boy has now started to get braver and often accompanies me as I’m trying to shoo them. He targets the wasps with his water pistol and has a higher degree of success than I do in getting them to go away.
I suppose we’ll never get on (me and the wasps I mean, not me and my son).
And at the very moment I type these words a wasp begins to buzz around my neck, as if he’s wanting to check what I’ve written (everyone’s a critic).
I’d better go and deal with him. If you don’t hear from me again you’ll know it didn’t end well.