Nothing quite so irritating as a migrating mite

I’ve been fascinated by Anne Treneman’s continuing tales in The Times of the lovey-dovey visitors to the yew tree outside her husband’s ‘man cave’ window. I can still recall, only too creepily, my own similar story.

Back at the old house, before I moved north to Cumbria, I too had a pair of amorous collared doves, billing and cooing outside my bedroom window.

In between the billing and cooing, and the hoo hoooo-hooing, one or other of them – maybe both, pinkie fingers entwined – would land with a thud in the nest they’d constructed in the lee of a security light, just beneath the eaves. Whatever constitutes collared dove lovemaking, a quiet affair this most definitely was not.

When the eggs appeared, like Ann and her husband, I was immeasurably chuffed. For me too, nest watching became oddly compulsive. They’d chosen MY home to settle their brood! Wow!

Every trip to the loo, every pop to the wardrobe, every trot downstairs for a cuppa, routed via the bedroom window, beaming with pride for the wonder unfolding. Right outside. Under my very eyes.

There one or other of them would be, on the nest, casting a beady eye in my direction, checking me out by return.

And when those babies flew the nest, I too peered forlornly at the empty space, wondering whether they’d ever return. Knowing I had been blessed.

Oh Ann… take my word for it, they WILL return. But, hopefully, you – unlike me – have some distance between your home and theirs in the meantime.

It was a couple of days later it began. There on the duvet. And there too! On the pillow! Something moving. I think. Maybe not? A tiny dot. Barely visible in the dim bedside light. And another!

I brushed them away. Just a specks of dust. Nothing to worry about. Go to sleep!

But then, the next night, more specks. Scattered, tiny flecks of black. Just here and there. Damn stuff! What IS it?

And suddenly my dreams were full of tiny black specks, crawling in my hair, nipping my skin. Next morning, tiny – but very itchy – red marks appeared on my legs and arms and stomach. Clearly this was more than some fevered dream.

It was night three before I looked up. Properly up. And there they were, dropping from the ceiling! Parachuting down from a long, meandering line of black specks, right above my head, a line which led straight back to the outside wall, where it turned down, then under the window lintel and out through some otherwise imperceptible gap in the wooden frame. Back to the empty nest.

Bird mites. Poor, starved bird mites. Abruptly deprived of their avian food source, they too had left the nest in search of sustenance – and I was it.

As it happens, they don’t feed on human blood but it doesn’t stop them having a damned good try.

Bedding stripped and bunged in the washer, I grabbed a duvet from the spare room and set up camp downstairs on the sofa – where I remained bunked up for two weeks as I waited for the fumigated room to settle. Why I didn’t just decamp to the spare room, I have no idea but, in my defence, I wasn’t thinking entirely rationally. Maybe they were in there too.

They didn’t come cheap, those mites, what with the pest controller doing his bit and the repaint (so streaked were the walls with pesticide). And the duvet went too.

<shudders at the memory>

Eventually, assuming the birds had long gone, a handyman pal came round to remove the empty nest and place spiky wire round the security light. But what’s a few spikes to a couple of lovebirds with rumpy pumpy in mind? Back they came, weaving a brand new home around the spikes.

But this time, birds once again flown, we got in there before the mites migrated – empty nest, spiky wire, security light and all. And that was the end of the billing and cooing. Outside the window at least.

Speaking of irritating bugs…

Not enough that I have to contend with Microsoft flipping my spellchecker back to US English halfway through random documents, mid-composition, and entirely without warning or logic. So suddenly my ‘doing words’ are a rash of ‘zeds’, my acronyms peppered with full points.

Not enough that Mac Mail, despite me turning off the spell check facility because it WILL keep substituting what I actually want to say with entirely unrelated words, continues to do just that. Sometimes, the ensuing battle between me and it can last whole minutes-long.

But when I accidentally miss the ‘l’ out of ‘public’, as I did this morning, in a really quite important email, what did I get? Nothing. No squiggly red line. No auto ‘correct’. Nowt.

Not even enough that the iPhone thinks what I really want to do is speak in hieroglyphics, regularly offering twee little illustrations for whole tracts of my texts.

No. Some day soon I’ll have to contend with Google’s Smart Compose writing whole emails for me ‘while reducing the chance of spelling and grammatical errors’. Yeah, right.

This latest attempt to frustrate my working day will potter along in the background, scanning as I write before making helpful suggestions which I can either choose to ignore or accept by hitting the tab key.

Not dissimilar to the Gremlin then, who will – on occasion – fresh home from his own work, stand behind me (still hard at mine), and watch me type, helpfully pointing out my mistypes as I go, before I’ve even realised I’ve missed that all important ‘l’ from some vital piece of ‘public information’. Or similar.

He’s not alone in this, by the way. I do the same to him. And, oh my, it’s irritating.

Bluebells beware: Clodhopping humans at large!

Rannerdale Bluebells Buttermere
Rannerdale, May 2016, Herdies being herded, extremely photogenically, along the designated path by the farmer (out of shot) © Hackette on the How

Sad news this week that the National Trust is considering closing off the bluebell fields of Rannerdale, between Buttermere and Crummock Water because, despite upping the levels of signage and roping off areas, visitors are ‘loving to death’ the blooming bluebells.

We walked there a couple of weekends ago and it was evident the flowers were not as abundant as previous years but we put this down to the Beast from the East, which has delayed the blooms across the UK for as much as three weeks according to the Woodland Trust’s Bluebell Watch.

But no. It’s humans apparently, trampling through the delicate flowers rather than sticking to the trodden paths. The Trust and its farm tenants reckon that the past four years have seen a 25% reduction in bluebells thanks to us inconsiderate clodhoppers.

Tom Burditt, from the National Trust, reckons the bluebells are only there at all because of the ‘sensitive management by our amazing farm tenants over many generations’.


So the stray sheep we saw, steadily munching their way through the forbidden bits behind the ropes were only grazing sensitively? Because, even if they WERE carefully avoiding the blue bits, their trampling hooves most definitely weren’t.


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