Sunday, February 23, 2014

There's no S in summer

Out on the constitutional this morning, I passed eight people and seven of them were fully focused on their phones, either selecting music or checking messages. Only one person had his head up and exchanged greetings with me. It's not that I'm socially needy, but it's always preferable, to me, to make a connection, however fleeting, with others also flogging up the hills or flapping down them. And on top of that, they're missing out on a whole bunch of sensations beyond what they can hear through their earphones, and how their legs are feeling.

I try to keep my head up and look around, and also to look in different directions. It's very easy to get into the habit of looking at the same things every time on a regular route. (That's one of the good things about going away, that when you come home your eyes are refreshed and you see familiar things like a visitor.) It's good too to feel the breeze, to look forward on a warm morning to the road down through the shady bush that's as refreshing as a dip in the sea; and I like to hear the birds, and that same breeze soughing through the casuarina trees.

Not so much birdsong right now, though: they're too busy with other stuff, and the hot dry weather we've been having for weeks is perfect for the cicadas, which are noisier and more numerous than I've ever noticed before. There are brown husks everywhere from their last skin-shed, on outdoor furniture, fences and tree trunks, and freshly-minted insects blundering about all over the place, clumsily hitching unauthorised rides on people's (my) shoulders and driving like drunks. And then there's the noise they make: clicking/buzzing/hissing incessantly all day so that the letter S disappears from any word spoken outside, and chirping all through the night.

Though they have a certain enamelled charm, they're not the prettiest of insects. Still, they have their fans: the cicada is the symbol of Provence, and they're used as decoration there all over the place, from pottery ornaments and plaques on walls to designs on bright printed table cloths. It's kind of sweet that they've been adopted like that. Maybe there's hope for the cockroach yet.

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