Evening drinks. A custom we introduced for lockdown, and a good one. And better still, a present for me: four bushes. Chilli bushes no less: two Ring o’ Fire, one Apache and one Hungarian Hot Wax, one or two young fruit already visible.
The fruit of the chilli brings joy to humankind: and besides, this little bushes, each one a couple of feet high and nicely flowered, are a fine sight. They sat on the table before us as we took out drinks outside.
At once they gave pleasure to others. Two or three hoverflies came in to savour the fragile white blooms and they provided a muted cabaret as we sipped and talked over the day.
I was trying to work out what it is that hoverflies remind me off. These ones, like many, looked like wasps but were only pretending to be dangerous – Batesian mimicry, it’s called.
But it’s their gravity-defiance that enthrals me; the way they seem to stand still in mid-air without moving a muscle. That’s because you can’t see their wings at all; they’re so fast they’re just a mist.
The insects fly in a series of jerks and angles: stop in the air for a second, then a quick jump to another bit of air nearby: a series of squares and rectangles with occasional crossovers.
And then I had it: they move like the knights on chessboard: one up, one across. Pause. Then move again. Straight lines with the occasional hook, with many mid-air pauses.
Compare that to the mazy flights of bees among flowers, the unpredictable nature of butterflies, the zooming direct quality of hunting wasps, the edge-of-control flight of beetles and the zig-zagging of houseflies.
I raised my glass to the knight of the air. Time for another, do you think?