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Saturday, 30 July 2011

I was expecting to be in Alliance today for the Sandoz board meeting, but for one reason another I’m not. I think there was a breakdown in communications between the people who invited me and some of their fellow board members. In the end it looked as though I was going to make a 200-mile round trip in return for a very brief meeting. I decided it wasn’t worth it.

Undaunted, I have been re-drafting text for the Old Jules Trail website, and by late last night had got it into good enough shape to send off to Chainsaw Phil. It’s interesting working with him. He makes a point of deferring to what he considers my infinite wisdom on matters of style, but pounces on anything he regards as a grammatical error – or indeed one of punctuation. He was brought up with rules – such as never ending a sentence with a preposition, or starting one with a conjunction.  So was I, but I got into the habit a long time ago of bending them to suit my purpose. It makes for some interesting, and good-humoured, exchanges.

Now, insects. It’s a pity they aren’t edible; or should I say palatable? I know that some people really enjoy a fried grasshopper as an hors d’oeuvres. And an ant is supposed to be highly nutritious. So is tripe, for that matter, and if I could stomach creepy-crawlies I could live pretty cheaply down here.

I had thought that with a screen door, and screened windows I’d be free of bugs in the house. And, to be fair, I am managing to keep most of the big ones out. But with no blinds or drapes, and with me burning lights until ten or eleven most evenings, the windows attracts huge numbers of bugs, clouds of them, a surprising number of which get through the finely woven mesh. Every morning I have to wipe up a layer of them from around the kitchen sink, for example. No, I correct myself. Every morning I could wipe up a layer. Instead I look at them, pull a face and carry on filling my kettle. If I’ve left a dirty plate in the sink – and I often do, because the dribble of water from the taps means that it takes five or ten minutes to fill the bowl - I’ll usually find a fly or a moth glued to the leftover bolognese sauce, or salad dressing, generally on its back, and generally looking as though it at least died happy. There is also a species of tiny creature, invisible to my eye, which gets in and bites me. And there are the moths, and stray hornets, the inoffensive little black beetles which crawl in through the gaps, the steady stream of house-flies, less energetic than the ones back home, and easier to swat. Added to all this are the noises – of cicadas chirruping, mosquitoes whining, the thud of a determined beetle against the glass, the ping as a moth hits the lampshade. Last night, watching the decaff version of Lonesome Dove (Return To…) I had to stop the action two or three times in order to work out whether a particular noise was on-screen or in the house.

Then the bat arrived. It’s not the first one that’s dropped by, and I suspect it got in through the attic and decided to have a look downstairs. The last one spent several days trying to get out and to this day I don’t know whether it lived or died, but I don’t think there’s a thing I can do about them. It wasn’t easy getting to sleep with the occasional flutter of wings disturbing the peace that descends once the lights are out, although there was a pleasant stirring of the air as it swooped past my face from time to time.

One more insect reference and we’ll move on. It’s a distasteful matter, but it has to be recorded. Here is what the grasshoppers have left of my zucchini plants.

And my French beans.

You’ll notice that the beets in the background appear to be doing okay. I’m not so sure. The hoppers are acting like kids who have been told that beetroot is good for them. They’ve been nibbling at the edges, just enough to halt their growth. There are small beets in evidence, but they haven’t made any progress that I can see for two or three weeks. The tomatoes plants, so far, are untouched. I wonder whether the enemy is simply waiting for the tomatoes to form. A sort of late summer treat.

It looks as though today is going to be a hot one. Eight thirty and it’s already eighty degrees out there. I suspect I shall gravitate towards that river before long….