Lord of the Flies

Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like bananas
Groucho Marx

Last week, cycling home, I swallowed a fly. This happens. Not long ago, one of our students (Nicole, I think) asked rhetorically during her presentation on the future of food whether anyone had tried eating insects, and someone else (John M., it may have been, or James perhaps) heckled that he had swallowed a few flies down the years. Cambridge is not a particularly fly-blown city, but this is the season of flies.

...fly-blown – Portrait of a Woman of the Hofe Family Swabian Artist

…fly-blown – Portrait of a Woman of the Hofer Family, Swabian Artist

From time to time we even get a fly in the classroom. A fly does not cause consternation like a wasp, but perhaps it should: it is mildly ironic that while the verb to fly is a vehicle of energy and inspiration (we wish out students to take flight, not literally of course; we tell them you’re flying; we fly through material with them etc.) the fly itself is such an unambitious flyer. They dosh their heads against window panes, or content themselves with drowsy geometrical evolutions in shady spots; they have a surprising line in vertical take-off, but then they go nowhere.

No wonder, given that, and given other aspects of their lifestyle, that they are an emblem of decay, of melancholia, of futility. Here then, by way of antidote, is Rolf of the Muppets, singing Winnie The Pooh’s Cottleston Pie, in which, of course, a fly can’t bird but a bird can fly.

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