It is humbling to discover the depths of your fears, and the bravery of your partner.
On the first night of our late August Peak District break, Maureen and I sat outside and watched the sunset from the converted barn where we were staying. One bottle of red later, my wife ran the upstairs bath, while I locked the downstairs door and drew the curtains.
As she soaked up the warmth, Maureen heard a series of desperate utterances drifting up the stairs. “Oh no, oh fuck …….fuck, fuck, fuck…..oh shit, bollocks, fuck.” And on it went until she shouted down to ask what was worrying me. I responded with more mumblings, shouts and curses, so transfixed was I by the huge hornet that had been resting on the back of the door curtain. It was around two and a half inches long, and sounding like a moped as it buzzed around the ceiling in irritation at being disturbed.
Usually we trap bees and wasps with a pint glass, slide a piece of card underneath and take the interloper back to the wild. But this monster looked too big for that, and insisted on finding the highest parts of the room, as it sought either escape or warmer air. I had read about some of the Asian hornets that immigrate illegally to Britain, and the venom of their stings, and was swiftly losing every good feeling about being on holiday. And now the bugger had found the stairwell, and was ascending.
I managed to yell a few words of explanation for my wife, telling her to shut the bathroom door. And then followed the beast cautiously, sensing that our options were limited. Maureen had already exited the bath, wrapped a towel around herself, and opened the only window in the hope that the hornet might see sense. As I wailed about how careful we had to be, she said she would blast it with hairspray! What? After an absurd split second vision of her grooming and brushing the thing, I pleaded with her not to risk irritating it.
For the next 10 minutes we watched it buzz around the high wooden beams. My fear was not just that any unsuccessful attempt to kill it would trigger retaliation, but that we would be unable to sleep with our new companion nearby. Would the fire brigade come out for this?
Cometh the hour, cometh the women. As I blathered on, Maureen grabbed a magazine, and climbed onto the bed. It had half-settled on a lower beam, just within her range at full stretch. “You know that if you miss we are fucked,” I warbled in terror.
Time slowed like a violent scene from a Tarantino film. As my wife’s arm went back, and then forward again, her towel began to fall away. The magazine smashed against the beam, and something dropped swiftly. Did it glance a nipple on the way down? The naked gladiator on the bed gloated in triumph at the still form by her toes, and finished off her opponent without waiting for my thumbs down.
I’ve asked if I can be her agent for a series of events around Britain, where she fights dangerous insects in a boxing ring, clad in skimpy spandex. Armed with superior hold hairspray and the Royal Horticultural Society monthly. Nothing doing so far, but it’s great to be married to a woman of courage.