In Twickenham, a supermarket chain has provided money to chuck a load of dead wood onto an uninhabited island in the Thames. We usually clear that sort of thing up thinking it unsightly. It’s easy to forget that different creatures need different habitats. With all the concrete we are pouring, and all the plastic we are throwing around, sometimes we need to give nature a helping hand. Piles of dead wood are very much favoured by Stag Beetles. They stay underground for seven years and then, around this time of year, the ripe ones emerge and they buzz around looking to breed. I saw one. My first in the wild.
Up above my head, round about a tree, too far to photograph well but close enough to read the shape of it. If I had been a child there is no way in hell it wouldn’t have been a fairy. It didn’t look like it should be able to fly. Like a bumblebee and a cockchafer it just stays in the air through sheer bloody-mindedness.
I could hear the wings. It’s what drew me to it. They are pretty rare, despite their size. I was glad to see it. Glad it was having its moment. There’ll be a few of them around in the next few weeks, particularly in South West London. Don’t step on them. Huge rare insects. Not great to eat or we’d have had them all years ago. Not a pest, even though there’s always somebody who tries to say everything is a pest. Perfect conditions for stag beetle mating. All the flying around is their last hurrah. Hopefully my one found a mate, and will help make lots of baby stag beetles for us to see in 2029.
I had the window open all day and so my bedroom is full of small creatures as I write. I left the light on as well. I just went round with a T-shirt executing mosquitos, and I let a ladybird out even though it probably would have worked its way through all the aphids on the ceiling. As I released the ladybird, I found my lips making the mantra: “ladybird, ladybird, fly away home, your house is on fire, your children are gone”. That’s old – really old. I wonder why we do it. Another of these customs inherited from the oral tradition that arrived in the modern world bereft of meaning. Ladybirds are our friends. Their sleek little larvae munch so many aphids that any self respecting rose owner wants them in his patch. Maybe they were seen as good luck. Some say you make a wish as you say it.
It’s hot. I’m fine with that. I like the heat. I crave it in the winter but this evening is one of those rare evenings where I’m wishing I had a decent fan. Summer at last. Joy. I’m gonna see what dreams I have in the heat.