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No Flies On Robin

We have patio doors which give access to the back garden. The cats love to sit by them, and gaze through the glass at all the exciting things going on outside. Leaves move in the breeze, birds hunt worms on the lawn and shriek insults to each other. The cats find these things utterly fascinating.

"Wow!" said Harpo, the mathematical cat, as he stared out into the garden. "Just look at the singularly attractive catenary curve that the washing line makes as it stretches from fence to fence. I could watch it for hours. And see! There! A leaf just twisted past in a perfect Fibonacci spiral. You don't see that very often – I think it got the golden ratio exactly right; what a talented leaf. This is the best garden ever!"

Bess is much less of a geek than Harpo and has quite different aesthetic values. After a hit of really good catnip her eyeballs rotate as she grooves on the garden's pretty colours. "Oh man," she mutters just before an attack of the munchies sends her off to her food bowl.

When we first moved in to the house, friends came to admire. "Gosh," they would say as they passed by the patio doors, "look at the leaves moving in the breeze. And see all the birds hunting worms on the lawn. Could that one possibly be a lesser spotted humming thrush?" People bear a remarkable resemblance to cats. But people are nowhere near as intelligent as cats. No sooner had the words left our visitors lips than, one and all, they would attempt to walk out into the garden, straight through the solidly closed patio doors, severely bruising their noses, their foreheads and their egos. Robin got really good at mopping up the blood that dripped from shattered noses, applying arnica cream to bruises and rebuilding fractured pride.

"This has to stop," she decided.

"OK," I said. "Why not attach something to the glass so that people get a visual clue that it is there? That might stop them trying to walk out into the garden when the doors are closed."

"Good idea," said Robin, "I'll get some stickers."

Within days some rather authentic looking bullet holes appeared, scattered at random across the glass. Not long after that I noticed that each door now had a screw in every corner – none of this modern Phillips head screw nonsense either, these were good, solid old fashioned screws with a single deep slot for the screwdriver to get a good grip on. And then, for extra support, Robin put a row of Phillips head screws across the middle of each patio door.

"They stop the glass falling out in high winds," she explained.

"So they do," I said. I pushed hard against the glass. "It's extremely firm and solid now, just like it was before. You've done a really good job there!"

It was clear that we had perfect patio doors. Nobody ever walked into them again. Problem solved!

But there was more to come.

If Robin has a fault, which she does not, it is that she has no idea how to finish her projects. Once she starts, just like the energiser bunny, she goes on and on and on and on...

"Look what I've got!" announced Robin one day.

"Show me," I said.

She held up a bag full of quivering things. Once they stopped shaking I could see that they were all twenty six letters of the alphabet.

"Why are they quivering?" I asked.

"Because they are made out of wobbly with sticky on the back," she explained. "They'll be perfect for the patio doors."

Soon after that, I noticed that the alphabet had been joined by a car, several dinosaurs, a self-satisfied cat, three rainbows, several musical notes and a rugby team. All were made out of wobbly with sticky on the back. They shimmered and shivered when people or cats walked past and, if you squinted at them from just the right angle, they refracted the sunlight in pleasing patterns. But we were starting to run out of space on the patio doors. They were looking awfully crowded.

"Do we really need all these extra decorations?" I asked. "Nobody's walked into the door for ages."

"They aren't for stopping people walking into the door," said Robin. "That's just a side effect. They are mainly for being pretty to look at."

"Oh," I said. "That's different."

"Yes it is," explained Robin firmly.

And then, quite by chance, we had summer. We weren't planning on summer – it doesn't happen very often and even when it does happen it mostly can't be seen. But this year, against all expectation, we had summer and so we opened the doors and windows to let the flies in – I feel so sorry for them as they bang their heads against the window, begging to be let into the house.

The flies buzzed around for a bit, making nuisances of themselves as they crawled over every exposed surface. Occasionally they landed on my ebook reader and very helpfully turned the page for me, thereby saving a lot of wear and tear on my fingertip. However I soon discovered that flies are almost completely illiterate, and they were just making random guesses about when I'd reached the bottom of page and it was time to turn it for me. Flies aren't very good at guessing games, so I soon got tired of their helpfulness.

The cats chased the flies for a while, but it wasn't long before they got bored with the game and they left the buzzing nuisances to their own devices.

"You're falling down on the job," I told the cats. "To earn your daily biscuits, you have to kill all intruders. Start killing!"

"But this cushion is so comfortable," said Bess, and she put her tail over her nose and went to sleep.

"I don't do flies," said Harpo. "Union regulations, and I'm a Union cat – solidarity in all things brother. I do rats and mice and sparrows. Sometimes I do butterflies and moths, even though they make me throw up copiously. But I don't do flies. Oh -- I do Alans as well." And he bit me on the leg, just to reinforce the point.

Then, one day, I noticed that I seemed to have spent an inordinate amount of time turning my own pages on my ebook reader. Where were all the helpful flies? Summer was still here, the sun was still shining, the sweetcorn in Robin's veggie garden was as high as an elephant's eye. So where were the flies? It was a puzzle. I mentioned the anomaly to Robin, because she likes puzzles.

"Oh, I know where the flies are," said Robin. "I'm surprised you haven't spotted them yet. Come with me." She led me to the downstairs room where the patio doors give access to the garden.

"There!" she said triumphantly. "That's where all the flies have gone."

All the bits of wobbly on the patio doors had melted into an amorphous mass in the fierce rays of the summer sun, and they'd spread a layer of sticky all over the glass. The flies, attracted by the large areas of light, had flown straight into the patio doors and glued themselves firmly to the glass. Unable to escape, they had slowly starved to death. One or two of the larger and hairier flies were still buzzing feebly as they struggled against the inexorable grasp of the sticky.

"Nobody is ever going to walk into these patio doors by accident again," said Robin in tones of deepest satisfaction.

I looked at all the myriad black blobs of fly corpses that festooned the glass and I had to agree with her. I was absolutely certain that now we had the most visible patio doors in the country. It seems that flies have their uses after all.

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