I have climbed right inside the long steel potato cage so that I can get the spade in more easily. I am looking for any odd ones I might have missed in a patch that's already been dug over. The air is moist and cool at last, a magpie is chortling, watching me. The soil smells good and turns easily. Several small potatoes roll out. I sink the spade down under a large weed, and suddenly, there is no resistance from the soil, the spade drops as if into a hole. I have time to think, 'that's odd!' before I feel a sharp pain in my foot. Then there is barely time to withdraw it and go 'WTF!' when a swarm of wasps flies up out of the hole into my face. Its like a scene from The Mummy.
The thing I'm thinking as I struggle to get out of the potato cage is, 'Don't fall over!' So I'm even slower than the fastest I could be, climbing blind out of a steel cage, which is pretty slow. The wasps swarm round my head, and start stinging. Then I'm out, still upright, and start stumbling towards the house, yelling for D, and waving my arms uselessly to ward off the wasps. They follow, stinging everywhere. I feel them in my hair. They sting my face, and I try to shield it and they sting all over my back. I pull my T shirt up round my head, but clothes are no protection, they are stinging right through them. It is such a long way to the house, I can't run, just keep calling for D, hoping he'll hear me, feeling very exposed, helpless, and vulnerable.
D comes running out, his face a study in consternation and alarm. He runs over to me, swats away wasps, picks them out of my hair, shakes them out of my clothes, helps me back to the house. I collapse on the bed, I'm hyperventilating. I think, I don't need to be breathing so fast now, but I can't stop. Then I cry, feeling the shock right through my body, the sobbing helps to release it.
D is hunting for something, anything, to soothe the stings. Bonjela, left behind after some grandchild's teething episode, long ago. It helps. E and S, who are staying, and mercifully were not with me when I was attacked, come and stand by the bed and watch me. A thoroughly dishevelled, weeping, somewhat distraught grandma. They are very sympathetic. After making a lot of enquiries, (did they sting your eyeball?, why did they follow you? etc) they disappear for a few minutes, then return with a picture they've done for me to cheer me up. E's picture is of a pony with a very colourful and complicated mane. The pictures do cheer me up.
I lie for a while, recovering, taking stock of the impact of this event. Has anything changed? All the places I have been stung hurt, and I know they will hurt and itch for a few days. But I am intact still, functioning, still myself. Still alive. Will it stop me from wanting to dig in the garden? No, but I might be more careful where I put the spade. The day is still bright with sunshine, and merry with birdsong and children's voices. I have been looked after, I have a place to rest.
Life can take sudden sharp turns, utterly out of the blue. You can be walking along a London street, minding your own business, enjoying your day, and then with no warning at all, you are in the middle of an explosion, and life forever changed. I am lucky, lucky, lucky.