I’ve had a “thing” about ants, ever since I laid down in a red ants nest many years ago on a family holiday to the Isle of Wight, considering I have such a bad memory, it’s surprising how clear this tiny snipit of memory is, I can still remember it as if it were yesterday.
We were visiting Sandown, a sandy beach nestled at the bottom of a display of multicoloured cliffs. The rocks from these cliffs have been used to fill many a little glass bottle of varying shapes and sizes. I can vaguely remember I had a lighthouse shaped one filled with carefully layered coloured stripes of sand and stopped with a cork.
I can also vaguely remember a chair lift to carry you easily down from the clifftop to the beach below, I can’t remember if we rode the lift or not, but the carpark at the top of the lift, now that’s a different matter completely.
Picture a family of five, Mum, Dad, and three Sisters, two of which have red hair and the accompanying luminously pale skin, picture all the trappings which travel with such a family for a day at the beach.
Now picture if you will, one skinny little mischievous mite, smothered in suncream and impatient to get into more trouble. Dressed in probably a set of bathers and a pair of shorts, toes tangled into a pair of flip-flops, and an all-important shirt loosely floating over the whole get-up as an extra sunshine protective layer.
The shirt which has stayed in the depths of my murky grey cells, the one I can remember like yesterday. It wasn’t my shirt, it was my mum’s. A creamy beige coloured shirt, with pale brown vertical stripes of different widths. A cheesecloth material, not too heavy, loose enough to let the air through, but thick enough to keep the sun out. A collar and cuffs, and buttons right down the front. The arms were obviously a little too long, but my mum had moved the buttons for her small wrists, and my large hands (even then my hands didn’t fit easily into the cookie jar), my large hands kept the buttoned cuffs from falling off.
So, there you have the picture, I’ve set the scene, now watch the little red-head sit on the bank to the rear of the car and lean back into the grass. Don’t bother to shout, there’s no point in yelling to tell her what we already know, the red ants, whether annoyed by the interuption, or just attracted by the scent of the suncream have already begun to swarm onto and into the shirt from all directions. A swipe at a ticklingly long piece of grass turns out to not be at a piece of grass at all.
The terrified little girl jumps up screaming, I can still feel the scream even now, as an involuntary shiver runs down my spine.
The shirt… That shirt… Covered in red ants, is pulled from my back… Those buttoned up cuffs, fastened so neatly around my wrists, are stuck!
Still screaming, arms and legs flailing around frantically, the ants are washed away with the only liquid at hand… A huge bottle of pre-diluted orange squash.
More from before – Holidaying in the “Isle of Wight“, September 2011.