Monday, 16 March 2020

Cecille and her Ants.

Seville/Feb 2020

We were talking about ants.

I’m not sure how we arrived there; it might have started with my asking for the Wi-Fi code, which had lead onto elephants- there is one on my computer screen saver - which somehow took us onto whales and finally we dropped in on the ants.

Later she killed a mosquito that had wandered into the room, but that is beside the point.

She told me she had studied etomology, or etology, or some other ology, completing a masters one and i think also a masters two – it was late, we were both tired and speaking in French – i was still struggling with the ology.

She had wanted to work in the field but found that the reality was too statistical, too individual and although she had spent a lot of time with the ants subsequently she had left it all behind her.

But she told me about the ants that build bridges and if need be can explode themselves and she offered me the book she had tried to read in English that explains on the opening page that in the time you finish reading this sentence 80 humans will have been born and 400 million ants.

Ok, i might have a slightly incorrect memory of the figures but the message is the same.

She explained how she had read the book first in French, her natural language, and had started it in English to improve; I saw that the hand written translations in the margins of the page ran out before the first chapter had finished.

I handed the book back, I am unlikely to read it.

Not because I am anti-ant – though it seems that even though she is a learnéd etologist and I not, we both share a reluctance to share our bathroom with them – but because in the introduction the book is compared to Watership Down, and this too is a book that I passed by when everyone else was reading it.

We shared a couple of more ant stories which took us on to chocolate and she opened the bar that was sitting on the table in front of us and then she went to the kitchen to make some tea.

Herb tea, because it was late, and whilst she opened boxes, boiled water and thought about her child asleep in the next room I looked at the collection of guitars hanging on the wall opposite the piano.

She sings.

Her husband plays.

We were waiting for her husband who was late, returning from his tai-chi class.

When he arrived, he entered with a post tai-chi serenity that I recognised although it has been some years since I stood in the frosty orchard with my friends following the graceful curves of the morning exercise.

He sat down and took his glasses off and suddenly looked very different than the person I hardly know.

We looked at the ant book and tried to decide if it was etomolgy, etology or etiology.

His French is better than mine.


All this comes to mind two days later when I wake next to the vineyard. I open the car door , where I have been sleeping and step out onto the Mediterranean soil.

First I look out across the salt -flats towards Spain and then I look down at my feet.

There is a tiny ant hill next to my toe.

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