A hornet’s nest

the man with the suit

We’ve noticed a new phenomenon which we’ve dubbed – “the English tax”.

It’s not something newly imposed by the Brits on unsuspecting Johnny Foreigners – it’s more of a “fleece the bloody Rosbiffs until they bugger off back across the channel” kind of tax.

Twice in the last week we’ve been quoted one amount and charged another, larger amount.

First, the man with the tractor.

40 euros, we were told, by another man who cuts the grass for the commune.
60 euros we were eventually charged by the man with the machine on the back of the tractor which not only cuts the grass, but also chops it up into little pieces and spits it out again.

“Quarante pour couper,” he explains, “mais soixante pour broyer.”
Ah, so it’s the grinding that costs.

the difficult job

And then there were les frelons.
Nasty big hornets which had built a nest on the side of the house just under the edge of the roof.

We were warned it would grow and grow if we didn’t get rid of it, and then I started noticing the enormous buzzing creatures munching on the wooden uprights of the washing line.

I was either going to have to wear protective clothing when hanging out the clothes or call someone in to deal with them.

I called, he came in less than an hour. He stared up at the nest, did all the teeth-sucking and head-shaking that he felt necessary to show it was going to be a tough job, then propped his ladder up against the house with all the ease of a former pompier.

He put on his gear, strapped a tank of insecticide to his back and climbed up.

I snapped away, explaining that it was “pour mon blog” and he posed obligingly. Then we all retreated indoors while the hornets flew their last few furious sallies on the disappearing nest.

When he’d finished we re-emerged and he showed us the honeycombed nest made of what looked like balsa wood, presumably made from biting bits of washing line poles and spitting out the chewed up wood.

Inside each hole in the nest was a blubbery, pulsating little pupa, hundreds of potential baby hornets.

a hornet’s nest

Burn the nest, he told us, insecticide doesn’t work on the babies.
And then he asked us for 25 euros more than he’d quoted on his poster.

So there you have it, the English tax, a tax levied on Brits with the temerity to attempt normal service in France.

Mind you, Ben had great service when he came off his bike last summer and needed an X-ray. Much better than the barbaric Spanish clinic where a doctor – I assume he was a doctor – sewed enormous black stitches into Hannah’s chin three years ago…

Casualty departments of Europe – a future post, perhaps.

About Beta Mum

Here you can find the ramblings of a trapeze artist turned journalist who ran away from the circus to join the BBC. Cathy "mine's a Kir Royale" Keir then spent thirteen years working in Jersey, Guernsey and Devon, before downgrading to what you see before you. She has contributed articles to The Guardian, The Stage and Television Today, Junior Magazine and both the BBC and Bad Mothers Club websites. She has two children who think women can’t be prime ministers. She blames herself.
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2 Responses to A hornet’s nest

  1. Penny in Amsterdam says:

    I don’t think this post, or for that matter any post on your still under-commented blog should go without any comment, so although this may not be the most opportune of reactions, here goes.

    On hornets: “Hornets may nest in the same location for several successive years but never use the previous year’s nest.” “Often it occurs near human habitation, but is not troublesome to man.” “Hornets are undoubtedly a very important component in our environment because of the large numbers of flies they kill in the neighbourhood of their nests. Moreover, they are a very beautiful species of Hymenoptera and magnificent builders of perfectly designed nests. They do not directly attack man but are feared because of their size and ‘wasp’ coloration. I have approached their nest on several occasions, at times very close while taking colour photographs, and I was never attacked by the Hornets.” (Quotes J. Zahradnik, “Bees, Wasps and Ants”, Hamlyn, 1991)

    On the French over-charging the British: I think probably, just as in Britain or most places with any locally hired home work, you should get an estimate for your specific job first.

    I would love to hear more about the Cosmo Club. From descriptions I have read about the Channel Islands, I got the impression that anything Sapphic there, even between consenting adults, would still be illegal.

  2. Beta Mum says:

    Hi Penny – so hornets aren’t so bad after all? I wouldn’t call them beautiful, but it is in the eye of the beholder. I was stung by one once in Jersey, and it bloody hurt.

    That trip to Cosmo’s was my one and only, and it’s shut now. It had an odd atmosphere. I used to go to gay clubs in England when I was a club-goer, but Cosmo’s felt more like a school disco or youth club at first. Things only warmed up after a few hours of drinking had passed.
    There was a no snogging rule, which everyone seemed happy to adhere to – which is odd for any nightclub, but i think the managers didn’t want to frighten off the hetero market, as they needed to make a profit.

    It’s not illegal in Jersey now, but the law didn’t change long ago, and I think the general public’s attitudes have a way to go.

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