Thursday, August 21, 2008

Uninvited Guests!

You know about the mouse who lives on my window-sill (it is now a debatable point as to whether it could be a family of mice) but I'm not sure whether I've mentioned the ants. The ants started coming in a year or so ago when the blooms from the begonia grew large and laden with nectar, dripping nectar onto the carpet.

Ants love nectar. In consequence, each year, when the begonia flowers are at their most luscious and nectar-laden, I'm constantly scooping up ants and putting them back out of the window. I don't believe in killing ants. In any case, were I to put down any ant-killer it would be harmful to Rupert. On the advice of a friend, who told me that ants can't abide chalk, I've applied chalk to the lower edge of the window-frame - it seems partly successful.

You have to be respectful of ants. For such minute creatures they are amazingly purposeful and intelligent. When we finally kill off our beautiful planet, I suspect it will be the ants that will take over. Untroubled by a sense of humour, unburdened by any ideas of fair play, they will be our ruthless successors. Anyway, back to the ants on my window-sill. They amaze me with their sensory powers. If I drop a crumb on the carpet in the hall, they find it. How? Can they smell it? Sense it? But,despite the fact that the begonia is now laden with blooms, we manage to live in relative harmony by the simple process of me picking up the fallen petals and, occasionally, scooping up stray ants in the dustpan.

Yesterday evening there was a Committee Meeting at David's house. I don't know whether you've been to David's house, but it is very elegant. Unlike mine - whichis comfortable but rather scruffy and untidy, David's home is immaculate. There are deep sofas, thick carpets, low, glass-topped tables on which sit elegant booksproclaiming the best wines of the world. It is clearly regularly cleaned by a conscientious cleaning lady, and it's a pleasure to visit.

I sat myself down on one of the low sofas beside Victoria. The meeting got under way. It must have been a quarter-of-an-hour later when I noticed that Victoria was not really paying attention to the meeting, she seemed hypnotized by my handbag.

Finally, her face transfixed with horror, she gave me a nudge, "Your handbag!" she hissed, "It's alive with ants!!"

I looked down at my handbag. I rather like my handbag, it's French and rather elegant. But, sure enough, Victoria was perfectly right. Out of the top of the handbag, in a steady convoy, was streaming a positive army of ants. I wanted to laugh. They looked so absurd. But Victoria was clearly far from laughing. I thought quickly. Why were the ants in my handbag? How had the ants got to my handbag? Then I remembered. At the bottom of my hand bag were a couple of throat pastilles, the ants had clearly found their way across the living-room, through the hall, up on tothe chair and into my bag all in search of the throat pastilles! But I'm afraid I decided against honesty. Somehow this didn't seem the right environment to admit to an admiration for ants.

"Where on earth can I have put my handbag?" I said, inferring that I'd placed it on an ant-ridden wall on my way to the meeting, "How amazing!"

"Kill them!" urged Victoria. I felt terrible. Had I been at home they would have been carefully tipped out of the window. As it was I'm afraid my principles were sacrificed to popular demand. At Victoria's urging I, too, started stamping - secretly hoping that the ants would get away in the thick carpet.

When the meeting was over, and I was home again, I ferretted down into the handbag and found the throat pastilles that had caused all the trouble. They are now in the ant-proof waste-bin!
So if, on Tuesday, David tells you that he is having problems with ants in his beautiful home, please look totally surprised! If the survivors set up camp in the thick, luxurious pile of his elegant carpets it's nothing to do with me!!