Since the summer has advanced, so has the number of wasps which have been disappearing under the lid of the inspection trap in the front garden. I hadn't noticed them myself, but my son, who is a committed 'waspophobe', convinced the little psychopaths are all out to get him, pointed out that they must have a nest under there. He also discovered a paper wasp's nest in the shed belonging to my previous residence, and refused to go into the shed until the creatures had moved on at the beginning of autumn. Convinced he would be attacked by my latest guests, he has been urging me to get the local mannie to dispose of them, and my friend down the road can vouch for his ability in this job, as he had to rid her house of not one but three wasp nests under the eaves.
Personally, I think that is acceptable – after all, the wasps don't pay the mortgage and they do tend to be attracted to anything sweet or sticky – but I'm reluctant to sign their death warrant if they aren't bothering me. I have been stung by a wasp once, but I don't altogether blame it. It was lying on the window ledge, and I thought it had expired, so picked it up to remove it, only to find it was very much alive and it stung me. It was momentarily extremely painful, but unlike horrid midge bites, there were no itchy after effects so I forgave the wasp as it may have considered the attack a matter of self-defence.
I attended a course once on Iona – it consisted of me and several 'New Age' types who had come to experience the magic of the island (it truly is magical by the way). One delegate had written a thesis on the many benefits of wasps – pollination, clearing up rotting fruit from apple or pear trees – there were other useful functions they performed which are now lost to my memory. Another attendee was a fervent believer in reincarnation (my pet hate and fear). Moved by the other delegate's praise of the wasp species, when one flew into the restaurant where we were having dinner, he carefully captured it in a napkin and let it out of the window. Whereupon it flew straight back in and stung him. When the agony had abated (as Macaulay puts it) he announced that it must have been his ex-mother in law reincarnated as a wasp, as there had never been any love lost there…
My son is absolutely convinced that wasps have deeply unpleasant personalities and are on a mission to destroy the human race (if true, one can hardly blame them in my view). I think they can smell fear and are intrigued by people who start flapping their arms about whenever they approach. But can a wasp have emotions? It appears there has been recent scientific (?) research to indicate that many animals do emote – which was pretty obvious anyway to most people who have ever been around animals.
There was a delightful TV series about the animals in Chester Zoo, where the keepers were very much aware of their clients' moods and feelings. Believing that animals are merely objects has justified the most horrendous cruelty to animals and it will serve humanity right if they die out and are replaced by a nicer species – along the lines of the Planet of the Apes
series. Personally, I think lions would be good to go – they and bears are my favourite animals and as soon as they develop thumbs we will be on the most wanted list.
Freddy the cat definitely emotes – but in contrast with many highly intelligent cats I've been informed of, who answer the phone when the owner rings, will follow children to school etc, Freddy is the feline equivalent of Tim nice but dim, which is confusing as he has a very intelligent expression. At the moment he is anxious to meet up with the short hair tabby across the road, but I'm unsure of his intentions. Does he want to make friends or just have a fight?
When we lived in beautiful downtown Banchory he displayed nothing but animosity towards the local cat community, whereas in K he is rather more nervous of his neighbours, preferring to stare at them from a distance. He was one of three cats rescued by the local SSPCA when the delightful owners moved house and left them, and as the local centre had limited room, they took Freddy, but his chums were sent to the centre in the next town. I don't know whether Freddy thought this a positive move as he had food to himself, or whether he misses his siblings. I have wondered about getting a companion cat for him, but if they didn't hit it off it would be extremely problematic. As it is he thinks I am a giant honorary cat and will only nip me gently to remind me it's dinner time.
I see Janey Godley is an avid reader but dislikes anything vaguely metaphysical or 'sci-fi' as she terms it, so she and many others will not like my (unpublished, naturally) novella which brings together a Fairy Private Eye, several time travellers, and a talking bear called Eric who is accidentally given genius powers to the extent that he rewrites Newton's laws of motion – and advises the Great Man on the design of the cat flap. In the process of rewriting history, the protagonists expunge the Battle of Sedgemoor and achieve Scottish independence 350 years earlier. Yes, this tale has everything. Like John Buchan, I couldn't find a book I liked at the time so decided to write my own – but I won't bother sending it to Janey.
My own views on books are completely opposite to hers, as I find stories about 'ordinary people' completely boring and am convinced there are no detective stories worth reading after the Maestro – Raymond Chandler – departed this life.
Years ago I bought my first Angela Carter, the fantastic Nights at the Circus
to read on a train journey from Aberdeen to Southampton, and refused to be parted from it at the end of the journey until I had finished it. And my absolute favourite is T F Powys' Mr Weston's Good Wine
, which has God as travelling wine salesman who brings havoc to an English village with the usual mix of weird and wonderful inhabitants. He's the sort of God I believe in, who feels more at home in the local pub than the church. I'm sure it's available on Amazon so if you are still looking for summer reading, do give it a whirl.
Dr Mary Brown is a freelance education consultant