Sunday, 30 August 2009

Mystery crickets, truth in fiction

Over the years on my London workshop balcony I've had waves of different creatures, some more welcome than others. One year mice ate all my lobelia; I've had a couple of outbreaks of slugs, and waves of sparrows were followed by blue tits then blackbirds. I once saw a sparrowhawk. All very interesting.

But this spring for the first time ever I heard the gentle stridulation of crickets. Though I couldn't find them among the plants, I was quite excited (Chris Tarrent used to say he liked a woman who was easily excited) and added them, for a bit of extra atmosphere, to the scene in Catch a Falling Star where Caz and her friends have a birthday supper on her roof terrace in Hoxton.

This week the crickets were still there, chirping away, as I thought. Then realization dawned that the intermittent squeaking came, not from insects, but from one of those cheap circular plastic fans set in a window pane on a nearby building (you can see it in the photo). I went to the National Biodiversity Network site and looked up the distribution of crickets. According to their map, they are in Islington, but not in the Shoreditch/Hoxton area.

I wondered if I should remove the reference to them in my novel. In the end I didn't. Caz, after all, lives in a slightly better version of reality; akin to a Richard Curtis film, where friends are funnier, weather more interesting, and life is never dull. She has the crickets; I, alas, don't.


  1. Crickets for some reason don't have quite the allure for me (and especially not my wife) that they seem to hold for the cricket deprived denizens of your neighborhood. The sound of a cricket sawing away at his monotonous tune is distracting, sleep disturbing and sounds much too close to my tinnitus for me to attach any romance to it. When we find a cricket in the house it is my duty to capture and release it as far from the house as possible. When they set up their serenading under our bedroom window I am sent outside to chase them off with a fierce blast from the garden hose.

    I always feel guilty, but only until they start up again (which they inevitably do) and I get another elbow in the ribs instructing me to chase them once again.

  2. In urban Hackney I'm grateful for whatever wildlife I can get, with a few exceptions.

    Traffic noise, alarms, people, music not of my choosing, and the din of bottles crashing into bins (lots of bars and restaurants round here) are my usual lot. A blackbird singing, or even a pretend cricket, makes a welcome change.

    I like to think of you releasing a pesky cricket far from the house. Do you talk to them? I talk to the spiders I capture and drop out of the window.

  3. Alan you are so lucky to have such tuneful tinnitus