Goldilocks was never my favourite fairy story; (I much preferred Sleeping Beauty, or Beauty and the Beast, and I always found the dwarfs in Snowhite dead boring) particularly when I discovered that the word ‘Goldilocks’ was a Jacobean gibe for the ravages of syphilis with its ginger rash across the hairline. Yet, it is Goldilocks’ anxiety of not finding something that is just right – particularly when I sit down in a restaurant – let alone when I spend the day with a friend, or family, that so often comes into mind. Then, I am blissed-out if it’s OK.
It happened this morning when I treated myself to a forbidden cappachino and it was lukewarm: a cappachino can only disappoint unless the heated milk is just right and like so many things that require a small, if particular skill, it rarely is. I cannot think of anything more disappointing than a cappachino in which the milk beneath its froth is either too hot or too cold, except a hotel bedroom without access to a thermostat. I don’t think that life is often just right but I’m still not much good at compromise. I think that’s why flies were delivered into the universe, to remind us of our Fall. Even idyllic places are flawed by a bluebottle, a midnight mosquito, let alone a hornet, or a scorpion’s arcane shadow on the wall. That’s why I love Emily Dickinson’s poem, ‘I heard a fly buzz when I died’; maybe her lines were inspired by Keat’s ‘Ode To A Nightingale’ where he counterpoints the anticipated perfection of ‘ the coming musk rose’ with his ‘murmurous haunt of flies, (not bees) on summer eves’.
This summer our daughter spent her holiday in France in the unsolicited company of a hornet-swarm. She couldn’t locate their nest, so nobody could advise her what to do with her anxiety except to remain vigilant and to keep all the shutters closed at all times despite the heat-wave for hornets, she was warned, like Goldilocks, are partial to cool, clean sheets. And their sting can kill. Every night, as she turned on her bedroom light, the hornets slammed against her shutters with scifi sound effects, longing for her bedroom-cool. Nothing felt just right: all she could do was either to evacuate, or to adapt herself to their nightly vigil. On the final hour of departure when she threw open the shutters for the first time and there – suspended between the shutters and veranda glass – was the largest hornet’s nest that the gardener later reported ever having seen. My daughter gasped at its pale beauty and linty trails of weave. As she looked back towards the house she was taken by surprise at how sad she was feeling at the thought that her companions, once so close to her in their proximity now, with her absence, faced extinction.