Summer has arrived in Cambridge, and so have the wasps. Yesterday during the second half of the morning Room 5 steadily filled up with them – I let one out, only to turn around and see four on the window; but the end of the lesson there were a dozen or so, buzzing against the pane. It was an oddly mesmerising sight.
My three students, Amy, Taka, and Christina, were entirely unphased by the presence of the wasps – they barely looked up from their work, and Amy blithely put her hand on the pane of glass at the end of the lesson with the round dozen buzzing about her, while she explained why the creatures are so stupid.
I was less relaxed, partly because I do not like wasps – I had more than my share of stings at a formative age – and partly because I was prey to an uneasy sense that I was in some way responsible if one of the students got stung. I have felt this before: in Rome, when I first lived there, I was teaching a small group in a fourth-floor classroom when a small earthquake struck and the building began to sway, and I didn’t so much fear for my life as worry that I should have known the earthquake drill (Stand in the doorway? Get under the table? Evacuate the building using the fire escape?). My students just laughed. Earthquakes in Rome never amount to much.
There is no such thing as wasp drill: wasps are not an earthquake, they are a feature of summer. Pest control was called, and everyone got on with their day. Later in the Botanic Garden, where, it being a beautiful day, I went to have my lunch, I was able to calm down a bit, and nonchalantly swat the odd wasp away from my sandwich as though there was nothing to it.