© Jeffrey Coolidge
“Another one! Get it! Quick! Get it!” For us, the sound of summer is not the merry tinkle of the ice-cream van, nor the sizzle of sausage on barbecue: it is the sound of the mother of my children going bananas about the moths. Every summer, these little tan creatures—so delicate they turn to a smudge of dust under the thumb—take complete control of our lives.
The victims of burglaries are always said to feel violated. Being invaded by moths is like being burgled from inside your home—burgled from the very seams of your trousers. Burgled by Gok Wan. Your wardrobe fills with fluttering saboteurs who turn cashmere into crochet. Unfolding clothes is like unfolding those home-made Christmas decorations that become a string of little men doing star-jumps. Surprise!
So you start small. You buy traps—white oblongs of card smeared with something infernally sticky infused with the smell of lady-moths. Wild with lust, male moths flock to these traps and expire. The traps are soon smattered with a membrane of pale brown—half a dozen moths per square inch. They look like tiny Damien Hirst installations. Sometimes the draught from an opening door dislodges one, and it tumbles down and sticks firmly onto your hair, dead moths and all, causing perturbation.
These traps, though, are more a form of entertainment than of eradication. It’s fun to inspect your haul, but for every male moth that meets its end french-kissing a pane of Pritt Stick, there are two whose noses—if they even have noses; I’ve looked quite close up but they’re a bit too small and are usually moving too fast to see—lead them to some hot real female moth action, probably in the pocket of my favourite cardigan. As for mothballs, they are exactly as much use as treating the bubonic plague with a poultice of larks’ tongues, say, or self-regulation in the financial services industry.
It’s not just the clothes. It’s the awful sense that your home has been invaded by a fast-breeding tribe of metaphors. Moths are entropy in action. They take a highly improbable and ordered system—viz a wardrobe full of Christmas jumpers and unloved woollen suits—and move it inexorably, albeit slowly, in the direction of a tenebrous snowdrift of evenly distributed mothshit, the sartorial equivalent of the heat death of the universe.
They are the…