What could it be, that nightly scrabbling above our bedroom ceiling? That scratching, digging, pattering about even, right above our pillows? A mouse? A bat? A lizard? A Thing? Then we started hearing the dreaded hmmmmmm.
Outside, sure enough, we found a sizeable hole high up in the wall with buzzy things happily popping in and out. Careful study suggested that these were not bees or wasps, but Frelons - fearsome Killer Hornets very common round here. They’re like plump flying cocktail sausages, and we’ve been gleefully warned about their agonising sting since we first arrived in France.
Inevitably, the day we spotted their nest was the day before friends arrived to stay, one of whom has had traumatic experiences with bees and is therefore somewhat phobic.
So that evening, we placed a ladder up against the wall (which made them quite angry to start with), and girded George’s loins for battle.
Clad only in woolly hat and welding goggles… Barbour jacket zipped up to the nose, two pairs of gardening gloves and reinforced trousers, George valiantly scaled the first four rungs, then came back down.
However, after sustained encouragement, he wiped his goggles, went back up and squirted half a can of Critter-Kill vaguely in the direction of the entrance, slid rapidly down and we both ran like hell indoors.
I think we reduced Frelon numbers, but the colony was not obliterated. Three days later, arriving home with our houseguests after an evening out, the yard lights attracted several survivors. No need to panic – we scuttled everybody inside without a mention.
Imagine our delight when three of the sneaky little devils suddenly appeared in the living room and started bombarding the light fitting like mobile cigars. Our bee-phobic friend was either remarkably brave, or just dazed by the toxic cloud I hysterically enveloped us all in. Squashing the poor things out of their misery was like jumping on lumps of Crunchy bar, but at least it disguised them.
We got through the rest of the visit without further confrontation, and our happy band of hornets seem content to stay above the ceiling, where we are content to leave them for now.
Unless, of course, they invite Hornets We Don't Know.
I’ve never seen that Albert Finney film, but was reminded of it anyway as I took to my mini-trampoline this afternoon in the lonely confines of the garage.
The trampoline used to live in the Famous Writing Room, ie where the cats sleep, guests sleep and where English conversation lessons take place. A room already well-stuffed. So after falling over it several times and because I never actually used it, George eventually banished it to the garage.
This morning it took some finding in the dark pit that is George’s tools-and-gadgets store, and a lot of beating with a big stick to remove the many creatures who’d grown attached to it.
But I was determined, because today was the start of a new Healthy Regime. I’ve started to notice a disturbing amount of pain and creaking from the mere action of Getting out of a Chair, Gardening, Making the Bed… from Mere Action, in fact.
So first, I determinedly did my Beginners’ Yoga tape (can it really be 4 months since I bought that?), then jogged merrily to the garage for 20 minutes bouncing up and down with Pondering. Because with the jubilant creaking of the springs (and me) it’s no use trying to listen to dispatches From Our Own Correspondent, or to a baffling medical phone-in on France Inter… you have to make your own entertainment.
What did Albert Finney think about? Did he rediscover himself… solve world problems…? Don’t know. And being of diminished brain I can’t do that anyway. I can Contemplate Trivia quite well, and in the small hours I veer readily towards Pointless Angst, when I regurgitate everyone’s problems aeons after they’ve been dealt with and forgotten by the people they belonged to.
From time to time I do try to think usefully. For my healthy bouncing entertainment today I tried a delve into the India/Pakistan situation - it’s the 60th anniversary and George had tortuously explained it over breakfast.
After two minutes I found myself wondering where the hell the spider was that had made that gigantic web across the window… and could it have been that spider scrabbling above our bedroom ceiling at 4 o’clock this morning? Or something with an even bigger appetite… And what can I dish up on Friday evening, remembering that Herbert is experimenting with vegetarianism (one of three people in France)? And why did they decide on Partition, did George say? And blimey, have I only been doing this for one minute and a half?
It is now 24 hours later. I did manage 20 minutes on the trampoline yesterday by launching into a brilliant, if hazardous, Cancan routine. I then wobbled carefully back to the house, had a lie down, and woke up this morning feeling as if I’d run up and down Mount Everest. A friend told me I’d done too much, too soon.
That’s good enough for me. I'll keep my Pondering to the shower from now on.