9.30pm on a Saturday evening. I am sitting outside on the bench in the back garden listening to the sounds of swallows high above as they catch their last insects of the day. It is still warm and overcast and,if I had not listened to the reliable weather forecast on Radio 4 a few hours ago,I would be expecting a thunder storm.
Inside, daughter aged “foureen”, and even more grumpy than usual because she stayed up till five in the morning at a “sleep over”, is watching something inappropriate on the tele. Its one of those programmes that humiliates its contestants by making them do all manner of awful and unpleasant things to themselves and to others for the chance to win a prize. Rugby clubs have been doing this for years, though usually they omit the prize. The bit that I see involves someone hoovering up insects and grubs from a tray with his mouth, and transferring them into a mincing machine. Beneath the outlet pipe of the machine lies his companion, who has to take the minced insects in his mouth and spit them into a device that will then weigh the contents. The winners are the ones that can get the most minced insects by weight in a given period of time. She is transfixed by it, totally fascinated. She hates anything creepy crawly, flinching at flies, bees, any flying insect and running away at the merest rumour that there may be a spider in the house.
“Why are you watching this?” I ask
“Why don’t you watch something a little bit more interesting” I suggest, wincing as the bloke doing the hoovering is encouraged to take bigger mouthfuls.
“What you mean like Springwatch? You always try and get us to watch that crap. Just because you’ve got a thing about badgers and that presenter!”
This is unfair.
“What Bill Oddy?” I say in a mortified sort of voice.
“NO that woman presenter.”
“Oh her.” There is a silence.
“Look mum will be home soon, and you know she won’t approve.” I say and feel a bit of a coward as I say it.
“GO AWAY DAD”
So I am in the back garden. Bats flit past, weaving and diving as they hunt insects for food not prizes. There is a breeze rustling the leaves of the trees and the wind chimes tinkle soothingly. I feel peaceful and content. I stretch out my legs. A car drives into the close and I hear Mrs BW pull up on the drive. I sigh and lean back against the warm wall to wait.