The back wheel of my bike is buckled, probably caused by my falling on it when I used my left knee as a brake, in the absence of any actual brakes, a few days ago. Since none of the plasters in our first aid kit came any where near the dimensions of my wound, a cut up T-shirt served as a temporary bandage while Francine scoured the local pharmacists for a pack of wound dressings equal to the task.
Today, I found a spoke key in the Millau Leclerc supermarket for a meagre €2.80 – I thought I might have a go at straightening the buckle myself. The key is a disc with a series of spanner-like slots of varying dimensions, none of which was small enough for the spokes on my lame steed. Foiled again! Yet again, I need a French bicycle repair man.
The afternoon was much more successful. We drove up the valley of La Dourbie and took another route up onto the causse in search of orchids. From our second stopping point, Francine went off piste into a meadow where she’d spotted a goodly crop of somewhat underdeveloped Pyramidal orchids (Anacamptis pyramidalis).
I was rummaging around on the other side of the road but Francine soon called me over ‘cos she’d also discovered another goodly crop of an utterly fascinating flying insect which was being unusually cooperative by settling on grass stems quite frequently. When they settled, the insects kept their colourfully marked wings spread for a while before folding them, tent-style, over their body. With distinctively long, clubbed antennae, they were unlike anything we’d encountered before. A swift scan through Chinery back chez Guillaume showed that we’d found something called an Ascalaphid, Libelloides coccajus. According to Chinery:
Ascalaphids are fast-flying relatives of Ant-lions.
“Oh, well, that explains everything”, I hear you say. We have come across an Ant-lion only once; that was up near Die in 2009. There are Ant-lions in the UK but no Ascalaphids. Both insects have predatory grubs. Now you know.
Several more stops produced nothing extraordinary until, on our penultimate pause, Francine found another new orchid. Her discovery turned out to be more special than she originally imagined; it was a local celebrity rejoicing in the name of Aymonin’s Ophrys (Ophrys aymoninii), known from the causses only, though “it may be more widely distributed in the central mountains of France” (it says here).
Two happy campers, despite the knackered knee and bike.