It’s flying ants day, when millions of the six-legged workers take to the air for their annual mating fest, swamping alfresco diners and drinkers in a swirling haze of perplexity, annoyance and distaste.
Seems appropriate, somehow, today.
For instance, this is also the first day of London’s Olympic traffic restrictions.
Stray into a Games Lane and you face a £130 fine. Or maybe you don’t – because in many cases a fixed sign says a lane is reserved for athletes and officials, while a ‘variable message’ sign says it’s not. Drivers are confused, says the BBC euphemistically.
There’s a perceptible mood of growing irritation. It’s not directed at the athletes, of course, because we’re all devoted fans (I’ve always checked the sports pages for the beach volleyball and rowing results. Surely you have, too?)
No, it’s the bureaucrats and functionaries who are in non-Olympians’ sights. So here’s a population-calming idea: how about a £130 fine for every Olympic official who wanders into a non-Olympic lane?
And what about a further penalty for any one of them who steps on to a stretch of pavement not cordoned-off for Olympian use? They’d be limited to that strip between hotel and limousine. One foot over the line means a valuable contribution to the local economy.
The games before the Games
Even more confusing, today is the first day of the games, as opposed to the Games.
Yes, I know the Opening Ceremony is still a terrifying few days away for Danny Boyle (anyone who works to deadlines will know how the available time shrinks sickeningly while the workload actually increases). But the odd fact is, the women’s football kicks off in Cardiff today.
That’s right. The London Olympics. In Cardiff. Before the Olympics even start.
Why the strange timing? Because the football tournament takes so long, the schedulers have decided to add a few days to accommodate it.
Well, really. I’ve taken part in five-a-side competitions where pot-bellied forty-year-olds play six matches in one evening, between fags, before posing with bits of the trophy on various team members’ heads. So come on, elite athletes – sink a few pints and show us what you’re made of.
And why the London Olympics in Cardiff? Well, they’re also in Coventry and Newcastle, too, so why not? Remember – it’s flying ants day and things are a bit odd.
A day out
To compound the confusion, this is the annual Day Out of Time for followers of the 13-moon calendar.
These interesting people divide each year into 13 months of 28 days, which leaves July 25 as the day left over after the end of one year and before the start of the next. So it’s not really a day at all. It’s a long pause in the middle of nowhere – or no-time.
Which means, I suppose, that nothing is really happening. So that football in Cardiff doesn’t count anyway.
Back to those ants. Today is their version of a sun-soaked Club 18-30 booze cruise. I’d never noticed the phenomenon until one evening in 1990-something, when I was taking a drink with some advertising sophisticates outside the White Lion in Manchester.
We were suddenly enveloped by something akin to a plague of locusts, as squadrons of winged ants descended in a city-wide low-lying cloud, settling in our hair, crawling down our collars and drowning in our beer.
We couldn’t remember seeing it happen before, but then, it was the first hot sunny day in Manchester since 1976, and the conditions have to be right.
As they are now, here in Kent – but I haven’t seen the ants yet.
We’re missing our clichés
Anyway, this is both the end of the beginning and the beginning of the end. Before long we advertising folk will be back to using images of sprinters breasting the tape (‘leaders in the field’), boxing gloves delivering knockout blows (to prices) and weightlifters holding barbells aloft (“We’ll take the strain”) without fear of an injunction attached to a javelin flung by Lord Coe.
But still no ants on the wing here. Maybe all airspace in the South East is now reserved for Jacques Rogge, in case he fancies flying down to Whitstable for an ice cream. Go for the vanilla/strawberry mix, Jaques – it’s always a winner. Whoops, sorry, Seb …