Archive for May, 2019

A Night of Wings

May 9, 2019




We think the rain isn’t coming. We say, ‘already May – and no rain; it’s not coming’.

It’s too cool for rain now, we say. As it can be too cold for snow in the north, so it can be too cool for rain; in Africa rain follows crushing heat. Always.

But then, just as we thought we’d had the briefest longest rains ever  –  a mere inch (in Africa we have Long Rains – April – and Short Rains – November- and sometimes Grass rains, a little bit of rain before one or the other), the rain came.




It began to fall softly on Sunday night and as it fell, the insect world erupted and arose, clouds of flying ants – winged termites – took to the air. Clouds. So that they slipped through every window left a crack ajar, so that they seemed to appear from every hole in the wall as they emerged and took to the skies in brief fluttering ecstasy; a mating dance, a nuptial flight. Driven by the madness of the briefest phase of a life cycle and drawn to the light so that every lamp hummed with wings as gossamer thin before they burned to death. They drove me to bed where I lay in the dark; even the glow cast by my kindle was enough to attract them. I batted them away until I couldn’t bear it anymore.



In the morning, dead and dying heaps of them lay beneath every bulb, like ballerinas who’d collapsed to the stage, still wings as netted tutus curled beneath them. Birds swarmed in and out and picked off the mounds that had fallen by windows and the dogs grazed on the rest – sausage flies we called them as children. Some of our friends boasted that they ate them fried, like cashews.


Asina in the kitchen observes my fat Labradors snuffling against walls to lick up the last of the night’s fall, ‘they’ll get fat’, I say and laugh, she raises her eyebrows, ‘they’ll go deaf’, she says, that’s what eating those things does to you, ‘your ears don’t work’.

Seems she was right, my dogs ignore every whistle and call on a walk later as I plod through mud and they chase partridge through puddles left by the night’s full two inches fall.