This morning I was assisting the police.
Well, almost. Shrewsbury Town Centre Residents’ Association were helping with a litter-pick organised by the local Community Support Officers. I decided to go along and do my bit. An hour’s gentle exercise on a sunny Sunday morning, followed by a free cup of tea or coffee in MacDonalds. The police officers issued us all with binbags and litter-picking tongs, and off we went.
There wasn’t much large litter in the area I walked – the council sweeping machines had already been through – so it was mostly cigarette ends lodged bewteen the paving stones, and the odd sweet wrapper. Picking up dog-ends proved an absorbing task, and the tongs were remarkably efficient. It was a novelty to find anything that wasn’t a cigarette end. I found only one match, clear evidence of the ubiquity of the lighter these days. (And one broken lighter, too.) Pieces of a smashed bottle, a paperclip, various bits of paper, a half-eaten peppermint, lumps of chewing gum, lolly sticks, a few plastic wrappers. All small things. Eventually we returned with our hauls, and handed tongs and bags to the police officers before heading for MacDonalds and our free drink. (MacDonalds had also provided a young member of their team to help the group, and he picked up almost as much as the rest of us combined. Well done, Adam.)
As I handed back my efficient tong, I thought how useful it would have been last night, when I tried to pick up another small thing.
It was time for bed. I’d just taken my supper plate out to the kitchen, and as I came back into the living room, I saw a darkish lump on the carpet just inside the door. In the dim light, I assumed it was a bit of crust from my bread, fallen from the plate, and casually picked it up.
Ouch! It was a big wasp, and it stung me on the thumb.
It must have been one of last year’s wasps, just out of hibernation. Fortunately it was trying to sting me on the side of my right thumb just where I use it when playing the guitar. All my recent practice paid off, as the sting barely penetrated. (It felt no worse than a bad nettle sting, and from memories of wasp stings in my youth, I got nothing like the full dose of venom.)
After this things got rather farcical. I put a cup over the wasp, slid a postcard under it and proceeded to the bathroom, where I opened the window and evicted the wasp. Shut window, turn on bathroom light – the wasp had come straight back in and was now wandering around in the bath.
Cup, postcard, turn out light, open window, evict wasp, shut window quickly. Turn on light.
The wasp had beaten me to it again. It was now making victory laps of the lightbulb, buzzing angrily. After a while it retreated to the top of the curtain rail, out of reach of my cup, and stared down at me, looking smug, waving its antennae and daring me to have a go. I decided to leave it be, rushed my evening ablutions, and left the bathroom windows open – in the hope that the morning light would lure it outside before I got up.
When I went into the now-very-cold bathroom first thing this morning, the wasp was still where I had last seen it, on the rail. I wondered if the cold had killed it? At which point it turned and looked at me again, giving me a sleepy wave with its antennae. Battle resumed. I grabbed the feather duster and dislodged it. The wasp landed on its back on the windowsill, still very dozy, and grabbed hold of the duster to right itself. At which point it was very firmly catapulted through the open window, and had already descended a couple of storeys before it got its wings sorted out.
So far it hasn’t come back.