We were sitting on the sand.
Hot sand. Very hot sand. So hot you couldn't walk barefoot. We were therefore squished together on several towels, drying off from our swim.
Dominic was stretched out like a starfish, perhaps he was even pretending he was a starfish. He was doing his level best to ignore our repeated pleas to stop hogging the towels. FDPG was deep in an Agatha Christie novel, reading about her hero Hercule Poirot (or Pwa-Rot as we like to call him). Max was one log over, pretending he was a cool DJ Guy relaxing on his yacht after a sold out show. Every so often he'd sit up and fix his hair, using his reflective sunglasses as a mirror. I snuck photos of him when he wasn't looking.
Richard and I were reading. Richard - his usual deeply intellectual fare: The Origins Of Political Order. Me - my usual deeply unintellectual fare: Gardener's World magazine. I was just admiring a charming photo of Alan Titchmarsh, immaculate in a periwinkle vest, cutting a large handful of thyme with his equally immaculate pruners, pleasantly determined look on his face. There's something deeply comforting about Alan. Whenever I need a pick-me-up I read his Tales From Titchmarsh column. He's always so nice and encouraging. Black spot on your roses? Never fear! He has 10 top tips for that. Mildew on your squash? Ah, you haven't used your baking soda spray yet, have you? Wilting delphiniums? Try some cheery painted bamboo stakes - practical AND picturesque! Every problem has a happy solution. Even if it IS something you've already tried (and failed with), Alan makes it sound both easy AND feasible.
But I digress.
I was sitting on the towel, trying to ignore the elbowing starfish to my left and a sniffing FDPG to my right (both twins took up the completely irritating habit of sniffing every 20 seconds this summer) when a large flying insect showed up on the sand. Not a hornet. Not a wasp. Not a bee. A bit of all of them: large wings, stripey body, aggressively long torso. It would alight on a speck then fly off, very quickly and very unpredictably. It came closer and closer to us, even landing on my clogs at one point. It kept flashing its wings and waving its antennae menacingly, waking us from our torpor and causing us to skitter about on the towels in an effort not to be its first victim.
When it attacked the grasshopper we all gasped. It clung to the grasshopper's head and made some determined clicking noises. The grasshopper waved its legs feebly as we looked on, horrified. Dominic threw a little rock which bounced off the sand but the insect took no notice. We watched the poor grasshopper writhe and roll around on that hot hot sand, until finally I went over and smacked at the insect with a stick. It flew away and FDPG moved the stunned grasshopper to a little bark house, out of the sun and out of the way of the insect, which by then had returned and was scanning the sand for the grasshopper. It was even more insistent and alarming than before, so of course we all started dashing about and bumping into each other in an effort to avoid it. Even Richard (who is usually quite oblivious to anything but the most urgent of disasters) moved hurriedly out of the way. Things were getting a wee bit panicky. It was a very pugnacious insect.
Finally my stick managed to connect with the insect. I think I stunned it somewhat. I scooped it up in a clam shell and placed it on a log, where it could hopefully settle down and rethink its grasshopper-attacking strategies. Then I went back to my magazine, intent on learning the Four Ways To Banish Bindweed.
Dominic got up and went over to the insect. He picked up a large smooth rock and smashed the insect with it, hard. He banged and bashed for at least a minute while we all watched, startled. Then he put down his rock and went back to being a starfish.
We settled back to our sleepy sunbathing activities, albeit slightly uneasy should another winged terror appear.
A few hours later we were packing up when Dominic went over to the log where the by now completely unrecognizable remains of the insect were. It was definitely a Former Insect. He examined the tiny specks of shell and wing closely.
"I think it's dead now," he said.