Tuesday, August 31, 2010

I was a cartoon character

click photo to enlarge
The other day I became a cartoon character. I didn't choose to be one, and no one coerced me into the role: it came about by chance. Here's how it happened. For a while I'd been eyeing up a golden conifer, about 10 feet tall, that grows next to the path that leads from the pedestrian gate to our front door. For a couple of years it has been impinging on the path to the extent that I've trimmed it back a few times. However, it has always been clear that it is too close to the path, and has no long term future in that position. So I decided it had to go. I got the chainsaw and quickly toppled it, then cut it into bite-size pieces for disposal. After I'd cleared it away I surveyed the stump. I gave it a couple of touches with the chainsaw, but it was dense, wet wood, and the saw didn't make much of an impression. So, I went for the felling axe. This cut into it very well, and I went round the edge, severing the roots, then started attacking the centre.

As my axe kept thumping into the wood, making deep splits I felt an insect in my hair. I reached up, pulled it out and threw it down. Then I felt another and pulled that it out too. It was a wasp. At that moment I felt a sting on my back (through my shirt), then another, and another. I reached round to swat the wasps off me, and as I did so I felt another sting. Wasps were now flying all around my head and body and it finally dawned on me that I was experiencing a concerted attack. With that I dropped the axe and ran off to the house, arms waving, being stung again and again, shouting "Ow! Ow!" When I got to the back door I tried to brush off any remaining wasps, unbuttoned and took off my shirt, and my wife took over.

Later, when I'd settled down, I reflected on what had happened. It occurred to me that in my mad flight across the garden and round the house I must have looked like Tom in the Tom and Jerry cartoon when Jerry has tricked him into poking a stick into a tree and it stirs up a hornets' nest whose inhabitants take offence and give chase. The sage advice when bothered by wasps is not to wave your arms about. Whoever came up with that one has never experienced an onslaught by the malevolent little blighters! Later I went to find the source of the insects. They had a nest in a hole in the ground under a heather plant about twenty feet away from where I was working, and had clearly felt threatened by the sound and vibrations from my axe.

What has this to do with my photograph of gaillardia seed heads? Well, when I went to gather them the flowers were covered in bees, hoverflies and the odd wasp. I was much more circumspect than usual as I reached into the border to cut the stems!

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 35mm macro (70mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f5.6
Shutter Speed: 1/4
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -1.0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On