I’ve had an infestation of wasps. It started one night just after I’d turned in. I read a few pages of Billy Connolly’s autobiography Windswept and Interesting (Two Roads, 2021). Incidentally, I have an idea Greta might also have been reading it, as she has become so potty-mouthed. I detect a Glasgow influence. “You can take whatever the f*** they are doing in there and stick it up your a***!” I paraphrase. Her command of the local patois is complete. Anyway, I turned down a page corner of the Connolly (bad habit), hunkered down, and switched the light off.
I switched the light back on, scanned for an insect, saw nothing, shrugged, and switched off again.
Ignore it. But now I was sensitised, wired for the next buzz. Forget it. Pretend you are camping under canvas. You are merely part of the natural world. That seemed to work. I slept. In the morning I found a docile wasp wandering across the window pane, and, being a sentimental soul, I scooped him into an egg cup and deposited him outdoors.
Of course he was merely a harbinger. Over the next few days his mates kept turning up. I tracked them down to a wasp nest under a slate on my roof. A hive of industry! (Do wasps have hives?) I called Pest Control. Yes they could come that afternoon. They gave me a window: between 1.30 and 5.30. I waited. They never came. I find this sort of thing very dispiriting. I attribute it to a collapse of civilisation as we know it, as John Buchan put it, “a general loosening of screws”. Well, I had cabin fever and I had to get out. I took my car out from its off-road parking space and drove it up the lane beside my house. It’s a single track, but it broadens out at its junction with the Main Street, just where somebody had parked a Chelsea Tractor. I was half way up the lane, when another Chelsea Tractor swung in from the Main Street. I thought they would back up to let me out, but no, they held their ground. Impasse. I swung in behind the (parked) Chelsea Tractor I to afford Chelsea Tractor II space to get by, but they didn’t take up the offer, and held fast. I had no alternative but to back up, in the process taking out with my wing mirror the wooden box attached to the wall of my cottage, housing my electricity smart meter. I got out to inspect the damage. Chelsea Tractor II reversed into the Main Street and disappeared. I parked, and effected a temporary repair, with Scotch tape, of the wreck of my electricity box, and phoned the electricity company.
“Nothing to do with us, sir. The box is your property, and your responsibility.”
That didn’t sound quite right to me, so I found a website, and a “help” (Ha!) desk, and again asked the electricity company if they would replace the box. Approximately one month later I got a reply, to the effect that the box was mine. It’s the pottery barn rule: you break it – you own it. You will hardly be surprised to learn that I was not on tenterhooks awaiting this reply. I had got on the phone and managed to track down a kind-hearted and sympathetic human being, who told me that I had to provide a new box, and the electricity company would fit it. Eureka! Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. To bed.
I called the Wasp people. They never came? Terribly sorry. They’ll be round this morning. True enough, the van pulled up, just beside the wrecked meter box, two hours later. I had expected a team, with bizarre equipment, like Ghostbusters, but it was just one guy and an aerosol can. He duly sprayed the entrance to the nest. It took him about three minutes. That freed me up to take my car into the garage for its annual MOT. I dropped it off, found a coffee bar, and read the paper. Then the garage sent my mobile a video glooming me up with a swag of “advisories”, and then saying I’d failed the emissions test. They needed to carry out diagnostics on the PDF. PDF? That can’t be right. Isn’t that a computer doc? DPF? Some sort of filter anyway, and by 5 pm they told me it was kaput. It’ll take a few days to get a replacement. Cost in excess of £1000. Want to go ahead? I said I’d sleep on it.
Back home, I asked the village’s font of all human knowledge what he thought about a DPF costing a Grand. He said, “Who are you with?” I stated the name of a reputable car company.
“Big mistake. Get a second opinion.” He gave me the name of a wee garage.
The electricity people came and fitted the box. Good job. Incidentally people seem to have stopped using the outlet to our lane as a parking space. I think word may have gotten round that an incident occurred.
The people at the wee garage were very dubious about the idea that my DPF had conked out. “It’s a six gear car. Take it down the motorway at speed in fourth gear and blow all the soot off. Then bring it in on Friday morning and we will MOT it.” This I did, feeling guilty as at the other end of the motorway lies COP26. If I’m an emitter, then I too am blah blah blah. I would dearly love to go electric but where would I charge it up? I must wrestle with this problem, but in the meantime my car has two days to run before it becomes illegal. Not having a car in the country is social suicide.
Actually I think the wasp situation is improving. There is no sign of activity at the nest site, and the wasps I come across are either comatose or corpses.
I took the car in at 0830 on Friday, and got the call at 10.00. “Your car’s ready to be picked up.” The fee was modest. Just like that. It just shows you that it pays to shop around. This morning I reinsured the car with a different insurance company, at half the price.
Well, it’s all a kettle of small beer, so to speak, is it not? Don’t sweat the small stuff. Our local chamber orchestra has reconvened for rehearsal, in person, for the first time in two years. Beethoven 5. Balsam. I will seize fate by the throat!