Sunday, 11 September 2016

City of wasps

One of the nicer features of Berlin during the warmer months is the popular habit of having a Sunday breakfast platter served outside.   The city has many hundreds of excellent cafes with their assorted bread, cheese, and jam awaiting the bleary eyed as they emerge blinking into the sunshine.

It only takes about three or four minutes but then they come.  From the second or third week of August they arrive in ever greater numbers.  It is the wasp season. It is now mid-September, and the glorious blaze of late summer sun, belied only by its angle in the sky, is but a backcloth to a momentous feeding frenzy.  The wasps seem to know that their days are numbered and it is now or never to have a really good final supper.  The Berlin wasps know what they like: a trace of foam from a Milchkaffee serves as an ideal accompaniment to strawberry jam.  A soft-boiled egg is also appreciated: genau six minutes if you don’t mind.

It is above all jam that kick starts their party.  Never mind philosophical studies of human crowd behaviour this is the collective affect of insects in full swing: suddenly there are nine wasps feasting on the small pot of jam that arrived with my breakfast.  There’s just no use in batting them away — this makes them understandably really annoyed — as other tables fail to realize in their desperate efforts to curtail the wasp buffet.  Yet somehow all this jam seems to remind the wasps that their days are numbered — a kind of frenzied sugar rush takes hold.  I am not so sure about the Heideggerian assertion that non-human life simply perishes because it has no conscious understanding of death: these wasps seem to know that they have little time left and are not happy about it. 

I observe with grim satisfaction as a party of four enjoying a champagne breakfast at the table next to me abandon their table amid a series of elaborate Pina Bausch style body movements to continue their revelries indoors.

The finale to my breakfast is a small glass pot of plain yoghurt mixed with stewed morello cherries preserved in alcohol: at this point the wasps finally take over with several sitting on my spoon as it approaches my mouth.  Be gone human!  We are in control now!

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