12/07/2015: zero dark giant horsefly



This week I’m sorry to say Landskeria has come under attack from hostile megafauna.

Not cavaliers, as I had expected, but a species of blood-sucking fly hitherto unknown to me: the dark giant horsefly. I came across it on Tuesday afternoon either before or after one of the July rainstorms we’ve been enjoying here in the Most Serene Republic. The dog was attacking something in the grass; pouncing, retreating, wagging and pouncing again. It’s usually a tired bee or a confused moth.

But not today.

Today it was a horrific thick mothlike thing. Chunky of thorax and somewhat fly-shaped  but striped, like a bee. I could see it was missing a wing, so I decided to go inside to fetch a camera, reasoning that it was unlikely to fly away. I did so, and it did not. I got a good few photos and considered severing its central supply channel above the abdomen, but I wasn’t sure whether it was good or evil; or whether it might be able to live on as a whole being (minus the wing that my dog had presumably removed) or whether it might at least make a good square meal for a predator in its current unsevered state.


This is how big it is compared to an iPhone 5C. Too big.

It took me about fifteen minutes of Yandexing (and a couple of minutes of Googling) to find out that the foul beast that my noble hound had defeated on the lawn of our sovereign territory was in fact an enormous horsefly: Tabanus sudeticus; the “dark giant horsefly”. This creature is not merely the heaviest fly in Europe, it is also the heaviest fly, and most grave threat, yet known to befoul the good air of our small country. I was glad, dearly, dearly glad, that my dog had rendered it immobile. It was a female, and those are the ones that bite chunks out of you for fun. Horseflies are bad enough. Nobody needed to make them darker or more gigantic, so I can only hope natural selection takes its course on this one and all the papillons of Europe rise up to rip the wings from these demonic pests until there are none left.

Besides the invasion, it was a good week. A healthy summer mixture of thunderous downpours and very brief heatwavelets; the quintessential Landskerian summer. V’s parents and sister were here for much of the week, and brought with them lots of food and beer and UHT milk, all of which were gratefully received and partaken of  apart from the UHT milk which was merely tolerated with the detached curiosity reserved for strange delicacies from foreign climes which never quite catch on in one’s own land. Like dog meat, or those massive savoury banana things they eat in Central America, or salty Nordic liquorice.

Alas, it has been far too humid to mow the lawn, and it is now threatening to become quite out of control. Any number of foul megafaunal predators could be out there threatening our idyll with their mean intents.


Dark giant horsefly lurking.

I have been exploring the Landsker Line beyond our sovereign state by way of assisting with a househunting effort on behalf of my mother and my mother’s non-business partner. V’s family were kind enough to look after my children, the Lanskerian juniors, and on Friday I enjoyed a day of relative luxury, driving around in a very hot car and visiting some houses.

This arrangement included a trip to Little Newcastle, just north of the line I think, wherein a lovely (but completely knackered) old farmhouse with some quaint mid-20th century touches was explored. There were MDF floorboards, polystyrene ceiling tiles, a Rayburn, an outdoor toilet, and a garden which had been entirely claimed by brambles. There was also milking machines and piles of receipts from milk sales impaled on old hooks; always intriguing and melancholy to see these signs of industry in stasis, knowing one day many years ago was the last day these activities were conducted, and all has ever since been as it was on that day; but always a little older, and a little older.


Milk receipts.

Just as we were getting back into our cars, a little late for the next viewing as it happens, an elderly (but very mobile) Ukrainian woman came marching along with a tourist map demanding to know where the local burial chamber was and whether we would give her permission to investigate it. Due to the nature of her request, and her manner, I naturally assumed she was German. So I was quite taken aback when she said she’d come from Ukraine. That’ll teach me to stereotype rambling retirees with brusque manners in search of burial chambers as German. (And Germans as the aforementioned.) I asked her if she’d checked out Pentre Ifan (for which Pembrokeshire is famous, at least in antiquarian circles) and she gave a dismissive hand gesture like she were some bearded middle-aged dude flicking through the Can bootlegs section of my record store and I’d interrupted her quest to ask her if she’d heard the latest Coldplay record.


My mother showing the Ukrainian lady where the burial chamber is.

“I want to see the sites the tourists don’t see” she said, or words to that effect. She didn’t seem to have a car. We helped point her in the right direction at least. No doubt the burial chamber she was seeking is little more than a bit of rock in the corner of a field, but she’d probably have been disappointed if it had a gift shop and a brown sign, so maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

The other Landskerian house proper (being located in Wolfscastle) was less interesting despite its proximity to the lingua-cultural borderland that so fascinates me. We did get to go up the motte (or mwnt, depending on which side of it you’re on) but like the house we viewed it is now more or less bisected by the A40, and therefore very noisy. If the proposed plan to turn the entire A40 into a dual carriageway ever goes ahead, they will have to knock down the motte all together. Or tunnel beneath it.


Cleddau Bridge from the Jolly Sailor beer garden.

Both these sites made me realise how little of the county I’ve lived in for three years I’ve yet seen; specifically the archaeological pre-Medieval sites. Which is mainly what you get in Pembrokeshire. That and farms. Alas, my own home country is so small that we have no such sites here that we know of. Only an old slate trough (used for skimming milk fats and butchering pigs, a neighbour has suggested) which is covered in moss and dry grass. I have considered stripping it back to reveal the thing beneath in all its cracked slate glory. But what if I did? What then? A gift shop? A car park? A brown sign? Branded pencil-sharpeners bearing the trough’s likeness? Special UN-designated status?


Not quite ripe.

I make a mental note for approxiamtely the fifth time since moving here to ask permission to investigate the bronze-age (possibly iron-age) rath in the next field. I did very briefly pop over the hedge once without permission, and with a baby attached to me; but I’d really like a proper look some time.

And in case you’re not aware, “rath” is a word of Irish origin for a fortification of that kind. It is found throughout Pembrokeshire. Wherever they are found.


Trusty papillon cleaning up the slippage.

Harvest season has begun. I have visited the three most bountiful (and fastest-ripening) blackcurrant bushes and hauled just under two kilograms of fruit. The dog helped polish off a few of those that fell. She is good like that.

Last night we went to Newport beach, which was beautifully blustery and blue. We found a dead jellyfish and went for dinner in the Canteen in Newport, which serves excellent pizzas.

The drive back through Cilgwyn is always fun. Landskeria will forever lie among the undulating valleys between the two Cleddau rivers south of the Preseli peaks, but I cannot help but feel its heart is up there in the moors. (Although technically that wouldn’t make a lot of sense, because you’re well within the historically and culturally Welsh bit anywhere north of Woodstock.)


Jelly fish on Newport beach.

Affairs of state have yet to progress. I’ve been brainstorming constitutional details with V. Largely by telling her about our constitution and trying to work out whether or not she approves.

She seemed disappointed that she couldn’t be called “Lady” being as we’re a republic. I pointed out that, in theory and within reason, she could choose any title she wanted as long as it was relevant to the duties she performed and did not confer upon her any undue privilege when compared with that of those of any other citizens of our nation who are of adult age.

That means me, basically.


Elder child on Newport beach, one of the honourary Landskerian ports.

Negotiations concerning the triumphal mural, or rather, the lack thereof, continue to stagnate. I am hopeful for a reconvening of intent and a plan of action by the end of July.

Further to this, a supplier of flags at a reasonable cost must be located. Either this or a supplier of the materials for sewing a flag. I do have a sewing machine you know. And despite my ignorance of precisely what all the dials and buttons on it do, I’m not afraid to use it.

What else? Eldest child (S) had her last day at kindergarten for the term, which was marked with a lovely ceremony involving songs, nature plays and (as she kept pointing out vocally prior to the event itself) cake. V’s dad repainted the table in the porch in shabby chic style, which is a big step up from shabby style, which is what it was before. I wrote another poem. A sort of parable or folk tale based on my childhood in Penmon. (And, yes, the crowd went wild.) V and I have both had work, but her more than me. Our youngest child (F) is developing apace in her speech. And finally, the dog savaged all the plants V got me for my birthday and urinated on my half of the bed. She also obstinately refuses to learn any tricks. But, you know, she is primarily an attack dog tasked with immobilising megafaunal threats to national security. And she does that.

One month into our diary now. So much has changed. So much has yet to change. The weather is muggy. The environment is stable. The economy is good.

Over and out.


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