(aka Bike, est. 2007)
Copyright© 2016 Angharad
This is a work of fiction any mention of real people, places or institutions is purely coincidental and does not imply that they are as suggested in the story.
While we waited for David to put the finishing touches to the roast dinner, Trish reappeared with her tablet. “This what you meant?” She thrust the device practically in my face. The picture was indeed of a harlequin ladybird.
“Yes, clever girl.”
She grinned, it confirmed her own conclusions. “Well we know that already,” she said as an aside in a stage whisper that Shakespeare would have approved. David chuckled from behind me somewhere.
“This the other one?” she pulled up the picture of the Tettigoniad, or bush cricket to the uninitiated.
“It is, does it look like the one we saw?”
“More or less.”
“Hasn’t got the razor up its bum.”
“So what does that make it?”
“Um, forgot what the razor bit was.”
She glowered for a moment, then with an expression of angelic innocence spreading across her demonic face, she said, “Please, Mama, may I ask what the thingy positron does?”
“The thing positron is actually an ovipositor.”
“Yeah okay, like what is it?”
“Part of its reproductive system, the part that lays eggs.”
“Well chickens don’t have one of them posiwotsits, do they?” she asked looking like the cheeky urchin she was.
“No, chickens have evolved a different way of laying eggs.”
“So what’s the razor bit for?”
“It can cut into the earth or sometimes plant stems depending upon the species.”
“So it doesn’t sit on its eggs like a chicken?”
“No. Some insects scatter eggs in vegetation, some affix them to a single leaf or stem, some catch other insects and lay eggs on them, some even lay eggs in dead things or on poo.”
“Poo?” she said pulling a face. “You can’t lay eggs on poo—yuck.”
“Some insects do, look up scarab beetle.”
“How d’you spell it?” I told her and she tapped it into her tablet. “Oh it mentions ancient Egypt. Did they lay them on dead pharaohs or something?”
“No but they saw the beetles laying their eggs on poo which they had buried and a some months later, a new beetle emerged so the saw it as the creation of life from the earth, a sort of transformative thing.”
Then she followed a link which had a pair of dung beetles walking on their forelegs and rolling balls of dung into a hole they’d excavated. She thought it was hilarious the movement and the fact that something was using animal poo to feed its young. It seemed so counterintuitive to her and when she noticed they were rolling it backwards walking on their ‘hands’ as she saw it, she thought it was so weird and had to go and share it with the others.”
“Your general knowledge is pretty good, isn’t it?” said David pouring the gravy from the pan to the boat.
“In a limited range—sort of,” I admitted—I was a voracious reader, especially when young, and I devoured knowledge. I thought everyone did.
“I’ve yet to see its limitations yet.”
“I know nothing about sport except a bit of cycling—I have little or no interest so don’t retain what I did read or heard.”
“Want to call the masses to prayer—it’s ready.”
Trish wanting to talk about insects who laid their eggs in poo or dead things went down a storm at the dinner table, as Trish found out—the hard way.
“D’you mind, I’m still eating,” said Danielle.
“No I don’t mind, anyway, the sexton beetles lay their eggs on dead animals...”
“That’s enough, Trish.” Simon had spoken and she shut up immediately. If I’d said it she have required two or three warnings, but her dad—his word was law—sometimes. As he was easier to cadge things from than I was, they tended to let him believe he was master of his own castle. He might be up in the frozen north, but not with a houseful of wily females—they played him like a violin and he couldn’t or perhaps wouldn’t see it. The latter was more likely and many a time when I think I’ve got round him he gently lets me know it was only because he let me. A bit ego deflating, but he isn’t stupid—just acts it now and again.
“Can we look at some more insects after dinner, Mummy?”
“I’ve got some mending to do, so we’ll do it then.”
“Okay, thank you.”
I wasn’t sure what she was after but I’d enjoy it until I found out.
At Monday tea time I discovered that the reason for her interest in insects was because they were doing insects in science. Livvie was really irked when they got home because Trish had stolen a huge march on her and dominated the lesson until one of the girls mentioned she’d been given a bee hotel for her birthday which was a box stuffed full of bamboo canes into which certain bees excavated and laid eggs. Trish wanted one of those and Livvie was intrigued enough to want to see one.
It appeared they would be doing insects for the next couple of weeks so they both wanted something to tell their peers about some gem of knowledge or fact that they didn’t know about.
I called them into my study after dinner. “Who invented paper?” I asked them.
Livvie shot me a beaming smile when the brain obviously didn’t know but she did. “The Chinese a thousand years ago.”
“As far as humans are concerned, yes they did, but wasps did several million years ago.” They both thought that was hilarious until I showed them a specimen I had of a wasp nest where the layers of paper were very obvious. It was one that had been abandoned on a moorland and I found it by chance, looking for fox moths. I’d had for umpteen years because I was a teenager then. I opened the tin it was in and they both gasped at its beauty and ingenuity.
“Can we take it to school—if we look after it?” asked Livvie.
I pretended it was a hard decision for me to make, when in point of fact, I was pleased it was doing something other than sitting here in my cupboard, gently mouldering away.
“If you promise to take really good care of it, because I’ve had it for many years.”
They practically offered me their souls so badly did they want to beat the girl with the bee hotel. I therefore pretended to cave in and let them take it, replacing the ancient cotton wool around it with some clean stuff and the cigarette tin, a collector’s item in its own right, got a quick polish with a clean cloth.
They left me arguing between themselves about who was going to carry it into class. I’d let them decide that unless blood was spilt or looked like it was about to happen; I had bigger fish to fry a meeting with one Tony Hancock, not the late great comedian, but a chap who makes documentary films and who came highly recommended by Alan. The problem—I had to go to Bristol for ten the next morning.
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