A year or two ago my sister mentioned that in her mind one of the things firmly knit to Scotland was midges. This surprised me, as in my memory Scotland didn’t have any. In fact, one of the country’s appeals to me was my memories of its being almost void of annoying insects of any kind. We concluded that the explanation lay in the fact that her visit took place in the middle of summer, while both mine began just before the start of September.

This time I’m going in mid-August. When I came across a website featuring a midge forecast for Scotland, I naturally bookmarked it, and as my visit gets nearer I began visiting it daily. So far, things are getting worse. For the first time, there are even the highest, “nuisance levels” marks today. On the other hand it looks the little fuckers are only really troublesome in the Highlands. Well, I’ll have to wait and see, that’s all.

Fuckers? Actually, what exasperates me about midges isn’t the bites but the noise. I can’t remember ever feeling a midge biting me. I just always discovered the swelling afterwards, and that usually pretty soon disappered. On the contrary, I can be almost fast asleep, but when a midge flies near to my ear I’m immediately wide awake again. A single midge I can’t find and kill can mean a sleepless night for me.

But the website told me something else of interest. Its subpage starts a section named “How a midge hunts” by the words “the midge ‘smells’ carbon dioxide from your breath in an odour plume and starts to fly towards you, picking up a whole load of body smells as it does”. So it all begins with one’s breathing out? That would confirm an ancient theory of mine I never saw mentioned anywhere, whether as a scientific fact or as a myth. It says that midges won’t approach you when you’re reasonably drunk. Only I thought they didn’t like drinking alcohol; apparently, like people, they don’t like smelling it in somebody else’s breath.



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