Thursday 11 August 2016


Carnage, there's no other word for it. As I nipped outside to shake the crumbs from the table cloth, a scene of utter devastation greeted me. Awestruck, I was momentarily silenced from the ongoing sub-rant that is usually the backing track to my thoughts. Then, I replayed the events of the morning so far, well, as far as I could remember them, from a slumbery beginning.

There had been the sullen struggle to respond to the clarion call of the alarm clock, then a half-hearted trudge to the kitchen to make a pot of tea. But there had been something else, what was it? Oh yes! On opening the lounge curtains to a dreary, damp day, I had noticed four large crane flies sat on the outside of the glass, presumably having emerged from the adjacent lawn overnight, after enduring a fraught childhood playing Russian roulette with the local Starling population. A brief thought of taking a photograph of the crane flies flickered and died, although I recall noting that there appeared to be at least two species in the group. Instead, I returned to the kitchen on autopilot to juggle tea bags into the teapot and wait for the kettle to boil.

A little later, breakfasted, dressed and marginally more conscious, I was pleasantly surprised to see a young Pied wagtail foraging in the garden. There has been a family of wagtails present for a week or two now, I imagine that the parents raised a brood somewhere nearby, probably in the farm buildings a short distance away. Suddenly, one of the young birds was hovering in front of the window, looking at the glass and seemingly focussed on our dragonfly ornament dangling from the top of the frame. A brief 'Not so fast, sunshine' on my part was replaced with a puzzled frown as an image of the crane flies surfaced in my mind. But the need to begin the day's activities erased that particular train of thought, so I cleared away the breakfast things and went to shake the table cloth.

The paving slab path, which runs along the front of Tense Towers, was wet with rain from a persistent drizzle. Despite the lack of a breeze, my hair and clothes were quickly soaked by the mist of fine droplets. I did not notice this, as my eyes were drawn to the umpteen body parts strewn along the length of the path.


Within the short frontage of Tense Towers, I counted at least fifty eight wings (they being easier and numerically simpler to tally than legs) which, even by my comatose arithmetic, equates to a minimum of fifteen crane flies. It had been tipulidicide on a colossal scale.

[Later that same day: as several folk have correctly pointed out in the comments below, crane flies aren't like dragonflies (so only have one pair of wings) and I was probably more asleep than I had realised (so the maths should read 'at least 29'). Sorry, everybody.]

And I don't think the House sparrows are above suspicion either.


Sian said...

Inspector Barnaby will be with you shortly. I'd say cordon off the area and put a white "body"mark around the evidence, but he never even bothers putting gloves on never mind full body suit to avoid contamination of site so maybe not bother.... put the kettle on again though as he likes a brew (um.... I take it you are familiar with the TV series "Midsomer Murders?)

Alastair said...

Graham, I think your maths is indeed comatose, perhaps you posted in a state of deep shock at the murder occurring on your doorstep. I make it at least 29 victims. There could be more, did you check which were left side and which were right side wings? A disparity would increase the victim total.

Katie (Nature ID) said...

Did you know crane flies are true flies (Diptera) and as such have only 2 wings + 2 halteres (not the typical insect count of 4 wings)? Therefore, you probably saw the remains of at least 29 flies.

I'd take your drizzle any day - sure would beat the gagging smoke that has blown our way from the 3-week-old Soberanes Fire down in Big Sur, CA. Despite having our windows closed, everything inside smells like we've been tending a campfire for weeks.

Imperfect and Tense said...

Sian, 'Midsomer'? It's Show Week, so nearly Winter!

Alastair, I really do need to go back to school, eh? And I never even thought about the wings being 'handed'.

Katie, Keeping me right, lady! Many thanks! I hope that your smokey days are soon over.

Unknown said...

Where's the Watch when you need 'em eh?

Imperfect and Tense said...

Hello, Mrs N! Aye, that'll be right. Though in light of my mathematical and biological error, the description of Sergeant Fred Colon being out of his depth on a wet pavement is eerily prescient!

Unknown said...

In that case, seems to me, you are more than qualified for the position of Special Constable (Insect Order).

Imperfect and Tense said...

These crane flies need more than a Special Constable, they need an Igor.

"An inthect, thir? What ith the thpethieth?"