Sounds of summer

Many of the sounds of summer are pleasant, but there's one we cold do without.

As far as seasons go, I’ve always been an autumn person. Give me Poe’s nights in the lonesome October, when the leaves are crispèd and sere, pumpkins nestle plumply in dark brown fields, and evenings begin to draw in.

But summer has its delights, many of them small sounds which, taken together, form a soundtrack to the long hot days. The soothing chirr of crickets; the soft phut-phut-phuttttttt of sprinklers; the low hum of air conditioning units; the siren song of the ice cream truck; the steady thrumming of lawnmowers; the high-pitched, whiny buzz of mosquitoes  . . . hey, how did that get in here?

If the mere mention of the sound of whining mosquitoes set your teeth on edge and made you glance nervously around, welcome to my world. Now, there are people who are genuinely not bothered by mosquitoes. These are the people who could be put inside one of those tents full of mosquitoes that you see in commercials for bug repellent, and who would sit there blissfully unconcerned as the insects landed.

I know such people exist, just as I know there exist people who can run a mile in less than four minutes, or climb Everest without oxygen. To these persons I extend my heartiest admiration and respect, while at the same time acknowledging that I will never be one of you.

Oh, I can ignore mosquitoes for a time, but that time ends as soon as I hear one. The instant that annoying screeeeee hits my eardrums, my head jerks round as if I’ve just had an uppercut to the jaw, my eyes start scanning every bit of exposed arm and leg, and my hand is poised, ready to strike. Even if it’s a false alarm, my peace is shattered as my senses go into high alert, converting every stray waft of breeze across my skin into a mozzie looking for dinner.

Even worse is when it happens indoors. When we moved here from England, my British-born husband asked why all the windows in the house had screens on them, such a thing being unknown in Britain. “Just wait until summer,” I told him. Despite the barrier, though, mosquitoes still manage to get in on occasion. Worst is when, lying in bed in that lovely dozy state halfway between wakefulness and sleep, I hear it: the sound of a mosquito homing in.

Instantly I am wide awake, sitting bolt upright in bed, my arms flailing around my head like a drowning person coming up for the third time. I snap the light on and, when I stop blinking, begin scrutinizing the walls and ceiling for any sign of the little blighter. (As an aside: who decided on stippled ceilings? Every bump casts a shadow that looks just like a mosquito.)

If I find the creature, all well and good. If I don’t, then it’s . . . Sorry, you’ll have to excuse me for a bit. That mosquito from the second paragraph is back, and I can’t concentrate until I find it. There’s a stippled ceiling in here, so like Captain Oates of Antarctic fame, I may be gone for some time.

Barbara Roden