James Burns

James Burns

Wild Times

It all went a bit Tennessee Williams for a while there. The sultry nights, a new home with balconies, wide-open windows and curtains whipped by warm breezes. The intersection of humanity and fauna, drawn out of their usual coverings and hiding places by invasive temperatures this summer decided to unleash. There was only one reasonable response.

An unprovoked killing spree.

I cannot blame a traumatic childhood, merely the unusually sweltering conditions. This seasonal aberration and its accompanying wildlife have seen me initiate all of the following out-of-character actions in the last month alone:

Be knowingly late for a bus – and therefore potentially a live radio show – while trying to kick to death a daddy-long-legs I encountered by the front door. Flailing, desperate motions in the ever-changing direction of an innocent wisp of nature. Classy and effective.

Shout at a butterfly. Out loud. Within earshot of someone who came to see if I was OK, because anyone who shouts “Are you SERIOUS?” when alone and without warning probably isn’t. In my defence, it had entered the property without a warrant.

Enter into a co-dependent relationship with the world’s fastest spider who first made his presence felt at 1:00am and was finally exited from an upstairs window at high speed at 3. As we sat at either ends of the room, exhausted, like a warring couple who had lost the will to continue arguing over who gets the toaster he won my respect and I knew he would make it out alive (Note: I can’t absolutely confirm the spider shared my interpretation of events).

I may be ascribing too much emotion to this. Does anyone know whether butterflies have the capacity to feel shame? Can anyone testify to a spider’s love? All I can say for sure is for a while there my life became a 24/7 real-life ‘Luther’ meets ‘Karate-Kid’ with a diverse cast of aphids, arachnids and more, and I responded in the manner of Michael Douglas in ‘Falling Down.’

They worked together, I’m sure. Waiting and watching me. The neighbourhood cat, a furious ball of dirty fur, turned feral by heat and experiences undisclosed, actually ran at me. Rats so fearless they waited patiently behind plants for me get out of their way. The world’s largest moth – the size of an eagle (at least. No, really) – paid an uninvited visit turning me into a frantic, curtain-swishing matador screaming into the night my insistence it leave immediately. A fox eyed me lazily from the roof of the shed one sunny morning before dropping casually into the garden of my topless-trampolining neighbours (a reality show idea still up for grabs, if you’re quick). And the flies. Oh the flies!

Flashback to a former, some would say eccentric, colleague who insisted the natural order gave humans command over all other creatures and acted upon this by rising majestically from her seat at the sight of any invading insect and demanding while pointing to the window that they (yes, our insect brethren) leave. After several minutes’ repetition said creature would inevitably find an escape route (possibly to get away from her) which she took as a sign of victory. I moved office as soon as I realised this was going to be a regular occurrence.

With every day bringing a fresh assault from nature I have begun to wonder if I am suffering from an as-yet-undiagnosed case of Attenborough Syndrome, or whether I am about to be unveiled as the long-lost relative of the Dolittles. But no. The answer has been there all along. Why couldn’t I see it? My animal magnetism has finally turned literal. Might risk a trip to the zoo next week. You may see me on the news…

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