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I didn't stop at the elbow, I leant into the bend and jumped across the angle, momentum and fear carrying me across the entire forty yards of roof to the wall of the main house.

Wisdom had left me sometime between the third and fourth wasp. And taken all fifty ways of breaking my neck with it. Leaving me blinkered again, one goal in mind - to escape. I wouldn't have been surprised if I'd snapped a couple of rods together and pole-vaulted onto the main roof. I was in that determined a frame of mind.

"What are you doing?" shouted an incredulous Shelagh.

"What do you think I'm doing?" I shouted back. Wasn't it obvious? Anyone would have thought she'd never seen a man run across a roof, pursued by a cloud of killer wasp mutant hornets before.

"Wasps," I added.

"It's too early for wasps."

Why is it that everyone has to be an expert? I remember being told something similar when we lived in an old thatched cottage near Aylesbury. I'd just run upstairs to turn on the electric blanket, stepped into the room, flicked on the light and ... found myself standing barefoot on a floor crawling with wasps.

Which, until I moved to France, was just about as bad as it could get.

The only item in the plus column was that they were dozy. It was November, cold and dark. That is until some idiot turned on the light.

They must have had a nest in the thatch and somehow found an opening into our bedroom during the day and decided to stay. I didn't stop to investigate.

Ten minutes later we'd moved into the spare bedroom downstairs.

The next day we toured the hardware shops and supermarkets but couldn't find anything for wasps. Not even a fly-killer. Everyone told us it was too late for wasps. They were all dead.

"Not ours," we insisted, we have a room full of them.

"No, not wasps," they would say, shaking their heads. Obviously the customer was only right on non-insectile matters.

I felt like asking them what they thought we had in our bedroom. A tribe of dwarf burglars in black and yellow sweaters?

But I thought better of it and rung the council instead.

"It's too late for wasps," they echoed.

"But we've got them."


It must be very reassuring to be an expert. To be able to dismiss so easily everything that doesn't conform.

"But they're all over the floor."

"Then they'll die soon. Open all the windows and keep the room cold."

At last, some useful advice.

But someone had to open the windows. And that meant walking several yards across the floor.

I had been hoping the council had access to some quick response team. Perhaps an elite branch of the SAS, who specialised in counter-wasp insurgency. But apparently our taxes were used for other less exotic purposes.

A pity.

It was a great act of personal bravery to walk up the stairs, open the bedroom door and - holding my breath and concentrating on nothing except the window latch - glide across that floor. I faltered for a while as I couldn't help but notice the wasps crawling all over the glass pane. But I was wearing thick gloves. And a hat. Two pairs of trousers and mountain boots. I had everything with me except Sherpa Tensing.

It took several days for the wasps to die. Which was made worse by the fact that none of our doors fitted that well. It was an old timber-framed cottage and the wasps started to wander downstairs and crawl through gaps in the doorframes. We'd see them on the carpet or worse the heat of the lounge would temporarily revive them and they'd try to fly, manage a few seconds of flight and then plummet to earth - usually onto me while I was watching TV.

It was a fraught week. A very fraught week.

And this was on the verge of becoming a fraught day. I surveyed the footstool. It was more of a footstool cum stepladder - a metal frame with two steps and a plywood seat. The latter having a disconcertingly bowed and rotten appearance.

I gave it a few tentative prods. It wobbled. I slid it forward and back along the ridge until I found the most stable position. And then looked at it again. Wondering. Would it take my weight? And what other choice did I have? The metal frame seemed strong enough.

I carefully shifted my weight onto the first step, then even more carefully onto the seat. Leaning forward I was almost able to stretch a knee onto the lower tiles of the main roof. I was a few inches short. Three or four wasps behind me and I might have made it.

I tried several more attempts, hoping that, somehow, either my legs would grow longer or the roof would drop. Neither happened.