We’ve had an extremely small plague this week – tiny black ants, just a few at a time. The odd thing is that they appear on the dining table when we’re having a meal. There have never been more than ten of them and usually three or four. I’ve taken off the tablecloths – it’s a nice rosewood library table in fact and not very suitable as a dining table as the top is most unforgiving of heat or damp, so we have a piece of heatproof cloth on top, which has to be covered by a tablecloth. I took off the cloth from the party after a few days and washed it, and put another plain one on top, covered by a lace cloth that’s just the size of the table.
At the next meal, there were still a few ants. I’d removed the vase of flowers already, in case they were in there, and taken each apricot and nectarine out of the fruit bowl (which hadn’t been put on there until Thursday; the ants having first appeared on Tuesday) and examined them before putting them in a different bowl on another table.
More ants at the next meal. Afterwards, I took the lace cloth off and shook it outside. No ants on the table. Next mealtime, a few more ants. They had to be climbing up the central leg or dropping from the ceiling. Carpet and ceiling were examined. No ants. I looked at the window sill. No sign of ants, nor on the wooden floor surrounding the carpet. I removed both cloths and the heatproof one, shook them all outside, looked at them carefully as I replaced them. No ants until the next meal. Ants.
I shook the cloths again and put them on one side. I spray-polished the leg and feet of the table and found no trace of ants. I polished the top. I left the cloth off until the table was laid for the next meal.
Ants. Just three or four. This morning at breakfast, we surmised that the four additional ants had been hiding in the lace. So the cloth was shaken again. Lunchtime. You’ve guessed it.
I’ve put the cloths to be washed and got out another one. I’ve polished the table again, going under the rim this time too, and left the cloth off all afternoon. No sign of any ants.
“If they come back again,’ observed LT, “they will have won. We may have to consider death as the only honourable action.” I was interested in planning this, but Tim’s heart wasn’t really in it, I don’t think he’d been entirely serious. He pointed out that we still have the upper hand as we’re considerably larger than they are and there aren’t many of them at a time. I started to imagine them ganging up on us, forming a monstrous Alien-style creature that might tower over me and pounce. But it doesn’t seem very likely.