As I wait for school to finish I watch ladybirds as they make a freeway of the wire fencing by the beach. They zimmer along its surface, paying no heed to up or down. Gravity has no pull on them as they motor their coiled highway. On my neighbour’s roses they munch their way through the aphids. Their numbers are flourishing on the lavender bush too. Red ones. Orange ones. Their little hard shell capes fan out and wings beat.
Ladybird ladybird fly away home
Your house is on fire and your children are gone.
We didn’t call them ladybugs. But ladybugs are what they are. Google says it is so. Not Ladybirds, says Jasper. How can they be called Ladybirds? Bugs not Birds. But both the neighbour and I know the rhyme and the way it went. The sound is familiar and right. Ladybird, Ladybird fly away home, your house is on fire, your children are gone.
My father loved the ladybird. The only insect he revered. A Good Insect. A worker, a helper to him and the rose bushes. He made us butterfly nets so we could catch the dastardly white cabbage moths that threatened to devastate his vegetables. Their wings so fragile, papered to nothing, their bodies minced by the catching of them.
He is in the garden with a Dutch hoe to rid the rose garden of the small, futile weeds. The soil is dark and like ground coffee. After the hoe, he uses the rake, making the earth furrowed. Neat waves wind between the bushes. The soil so carefully tilled. It is dark and wet, like chocolate sponge. It would be nice to be able to lie on the lawn with a book, but there are always jobs to be done. It is not safe to be outside and not engaged in work. The gum tree oozes chores. It is the season of the peeling bark. Bundled into crispy beige piles and forced into hessian sacks still smelling of wheat. Dragged to the back corner incinerator where dad is the only one with the matches. Ladybird ladybird fly away home.