Bugwoman on Location – The Blue Shed

Dear Readers, this week I have been in Milborne St Andrew  in Dorset with my parents, trying to help them to deal with the heat. For my Australian and many of my North American readers, I’m sure that my complaining about 90 degree temperatures will be met with a hearty chortle, but for folk with breathing difficulties, even these levels of warmth can cause problems. Plus there was no relief even at night. The fan was on full blast, windows were opened and closed according to where the sun was, lots of drinks were imbibed, and Mum and Dad spent most of the time resting. And so, we got through it, and even got the invitations for the 60th Wedding Anniversary party out, and the menu chosen. Progress was made, in spite of everything.

And one late afternoon, when everyone was dozing, I found a seat in the shade in the back garden next to the blue shed, and decided to stay put and see what I could see.

I love the weathered paintwork on this shed. There is something beautiful about the way that the wood is beginning to show through, and the dance of shadows across the slats.

The shed props up a cotoneaster, and a ceanothus has draped itself over the roof.

I am determined to sit on this seat, like Buddha, until I am….well, if not enlightened, at least lightened. A buzzard wheels across the sky, and just as I get it focused in my camera it folds its wings and dives, disappearing behind the bungalow roofs. And so, I start off feeling disappointed. How often I regret what I didn’t manage to capture on camera, instead of being grateful for what’s right under my nose. So, I settle down again, and decide to look properly.

Take the cotoneaster, for example. The flowers are gone, and instead the berries look like tiny apples, patrolled by ants.

A hoverfly rests in the shadows, flexing her abdomen, though there are no eggs that I can see. Maybe this female is resting from being chased by males every time she tries to feed. A visit here makes my heart very vulnerable. Maybe it’s because I  do things at the pace of two not-very-well 80 year-olds, and all the feelings I can cover up with busyness at home catch up with me. I find myself overwhelmed with tenderness for something as simple as a fly, resting in the shade.

The sparrows are hunting for insects in the ceanothus. They are insectivorous at this time of year, instinctively knowing that their youngsters need protein to grow. They are argumentative and tetchy, and I wonder if the heat bothers them as well. I have promised to get the parents a birdbath, I think it would supply hours of entertainment for everyone, feathered and unfeathered.

Something lands on the shed door. I have only a second, but this one I do catch on camera, albeit badly. A ruby-tailed wasp(Chrysis rubii)! And look at the size of her shadow. She was probably looking for a nest-hole to lay an egg. These are solitary wasps, quite rare in the UK and so I was very lucky to spot one, even for a second.

Ruby-tailed wasp (Chrysis ruddii)

And here is a much better photo so you can see what I was getting excited about. There are twenty-odd species of ruby-tailed wasp in the UK with differing patterns of red, blue and green.

Kentish Plumber (https://www.flickr.com/photos/plumberjohn/28089262520/)

A very fine ruby-tailed wasp (Photo One – Credit below)

And looking more closely at the shed, it seemed it was a habitat for lots of other creatures, too. There were red velvet mites gliding over the surface – these are relatives of spiders and scorpions, and while some species are detritivores, this species is predatory, galloping across the blue wooden plains in search of other even smaller animals to eat.

Red velvet mite (Eutrombidium sp.)

I wonder who has made their home in the keyhole?

There is a ribbon of gossamer under the eaves.

And an intrepid snail, one of the humbug- coloured ones that seem to out-number all the others in the garden.

The soundscape is a combination of someone power-washing their patio, the cockatiel across the way getting very excited at being out of doors, jackdaws chuckling and the puffed-up cooing of collared doves as they chase one another backwards and forwards across the garden.

And then, as I hear the familiar theme tune of Pointless, the TV quiz show, coming from the house, I gather up my camera and head back up the path. I always watch Pointless with Dad – I am a little in love with Richard Osman, plus we always like to see how many answers we can get (much easier now Dad has had his cataracts done and can actually see the screen). We are formidable General Knowledge foes, and I am not at all put out when Dad gets more questions right than I do. Not at all put out. Seriously.

But as I get to the kitchen door, a flash of red shoots past me. Glory be. A Scarlet Tiger. How I love those delta wings, and the way that the moth only reveals his scarlet under wings and abdomen in flight.

Scarlet Tiger (Callimorpha dominula)

The next day, Mum is trying on a few jackets that she’s bought online to wear for the party. She had a fall in May, and pain in her hip is added to the pain from the osteoarthritis in her back. She shuffles to the bedroom, tries on the jacket, and looks out of the window.

‘I can’t even get outside to cut some roses for my bowl’, she says, and, turning her head away, sobs silently and fiercely.

‘Oh Mum’, I say, uselessly.

And then she gathers herself together.

‘I’ll be alright,’ she says, ‘don’t worry’.

‘You could feel better tomorrow’, I say.

‘Yes, I might’, she says, wiping her eyes, straightening herself up, looking in the mirror. She can’t decide between the two jackets.

‘Get both of ’em’!’ shouts dad from the living room.

‘You know,’ says Mum, ‘I think I will’.

And I cut roses from the garden  and put them in the glass bowl that Mum found in the charity shop, and give thanks for having legs that work, and for the fortitude of my mother, a diminutive woman warrior shaking her spear against despair.

Photo Credit

Photo One (Ruby-tailed wasp) – by the Kentish Plumber (https://www.flickr.com/photos/plumberjohn/28089262520/)


18 thoughts on “Bugwoman on Location – The Blue Shed

  1. Veronica Cooke

    The blue shed is clearly a very special place. I can’t get over that wasp – how beautiful. I’d love a pair of earrings in those colours!

    Your poor mum. It must be horrible for her and heartbreaking for you to see but I’m so glad she got both jackets! Old age is all very well when you’re in good health but it’s no fun if you’re not…

    I hope you have a good weekend.

  2. Sarah Ann Bronkhorst

    So much I’d like to say, as your parents’ situation and your role in it are sadly recognisable to me. Will just mention the snail, however: lots like it, in varying pretty colours, in St P. cemetery but never in my nearby garden. Odd.

  3. limnerc

    Rainbow wasp would be an apt name.
    Aging and what comes with it often stops me in my tracks. No one ever write manuals on what to expect when you age, unlike books on what to expect when you’re expecting. 🙂 I tried to explain to my neighbor how it felt when I first realized I’m inheriting the legacies from all the falls, hiking, long distance running, sports, etc. I enjoyed in my youth. Her simple response was, “Yeah, you might have aches and pains, and you’ve had some surgeries, but you sure had fun doing all that when you were young, huh?” What could I say?

    So I try to remember the joy and pleasures I reaped from an active life. It makes the reaping a bit easier to bear. 🙂 When did camera get to be so heavy though? Some days my iPhone is the best I can do. I love a macro lens though.

    Perhaps your mom might sit and direct someone else in cutting the roses for her. She can arrange them to her liking and enjoy them just as much. Bless your dad’s heart. 🙂

    1. Bug Woman

      Hi Limnerc, thank you for commenting. I love how helpful your neighbour was (not) :-). I think that people don’t actually want to hear what we’re telling them a lot of the time. The only thing that I can say is that, active or not, this old age thing seems to get all of us in the end, and I’m sure that having had such a sporty life has improved your muscles and heart, if not your joints!

      Mum was a tiny premature baby, weighing only 2 1/2 pounds. Back in 1935, when she was born, virtually no babies that small survived, and my gran was allowed to take her home because she wasn’t expected to live, and the hospital couldn’t do any more. But she did live, and although she has had all kinds of health problems for most of her life, she’s somehow made it through to 81 years, when she wasn’t expected to last 81 days. Remarkable.
      Your idea about the roses is perfect, I shall do that next time. And yes, bless dad’s heart….

  4. Jo

    A touching piece, thank you. Your words convey subtle emotions and remind me how the natural world brings one back into balance.
    It occurs to me that I’ve never commented before or said thank you for your writing. It always pleases when it pings into my inbox.

    1. Bug Woman

      Thank you, Jo! I’m glad you enjoy the blog. I get a lot of pleasure from doing it, much enhanced by the lovely people who read it.

  5. Katya

    The blue shed looks rather stately and determined in its wear and tear. I was struck by the subtle remains of blue color and how the youthful vigor of the cotoneaster and ceanothus arms seem to caress and protect, maybe even help those old walls stay upright.
    Your sympathetic and loving portrait of your Mum facing her frustrations was very touching.
    Thank you for sharing such moments with her and your Dad with us.

      1. Katya

        All is well with me, thank you. My garden is a wild jungle, thanks to so much rain this spring.
        Just wanted to let you know there was a glitch of some kind and recent comments I’ve tried to send have been accepted. It happened once before, but as of today the gods of cyber allowed me bypass their whims…
        I enjoy your blog and am inspired by your lovely, heartfelt observations and accompanying photos.

  6. Fran and Bobby Freelove

    We think everyone is touched by the worries you have with your parents, we too had very similar ones with our parents. In the end, when our father was housebound he used to say what he would give just to be able to walk into town like he used to regularly, frustration is an awful thing. They are extremely lucky to have you, you are such a genuinely caring person, and i’m sure you just being there with them cheers them up.

    1. Bug Woman

      Oh, thanks Fran and Bobby. I do my best :-). And they are both so lovely. I just often feel helpless, but you’re right, there’s much to be said for a listening ear and just having someone different to talk to.

  7. Toffeeapple

    First of all I want to say how strong you are being for your parents, it can’t be easy. I am sorry that they had such trouble in the heat but glad that you were able to help.
    Secondly, there is a lot to be said for sitting still and observing. That wasp is superb, just the colours I like to wear too. As is the colour of the shed, I like the way it is ‘silvering’ through the blue.
    That is a good idea to have your Mum turn into a garden director!


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