f o r m i k

[ 20:05 friday 14 april – sandhurst, gloucestershire ]

here i am at mum and dad’s where i arrived last night. today we went walking in the malvern hills. soft air, trees bursting with bud, the sun warm against our faces. as i write mum’s in the kitchen preparing supper and dad’s taking advantage of the last moments of light to finish his labours in the garden.

last week i lost a friend, or rather several thousand of them, which was a sad experience. some months ago i acquired a magnificent bamboo tree for the office from plant-seller friends on brick lane. it’s fifteen feet tall and some of the stems are as thick as my arm. it looks just wonderful. shortly after the bamboo’s arrival we noticed a couple of ants crawling around the floor. a few days later a column turned up to harvest biscuit crumbs from jan’s table. it seemed we had some new residents and it didn’t take great deductive skills to link them with the enormous tub in which the bamboo was planted. since then the ants have been our constant companions in the office.

living on stromboli there were always ants around the house. in a way i came to appreciate their company. whether i was working, reading, cooking or whatever i’d be subliminally aware of where they were and what they were up to day by day. individually their behaviour is monotonous but collectively it’s incredibly varied. i remember one time on the terrace talking with gustl whilst a double column of ants tracked up and down a fig tree beside us. all at once the ants froze, every single one of them, and remained motionless as we watched in wonder. there had been no external trigger that we could discern but somehow the decision to stop moving had communicated itself instantaneously through the whole column. i rapped on the tree trunk but the ants remained completely still. then after several minutes they all tentatively wiggled their antennae and a few seconds later the entire column was back in motion.

when the ants appeared in the office i suppose i felt a kind of nostalgia to have this familiar presence in my environment once more. previously the office ecosystem was inhabited only by plants and humans. the ants added a rich and unpredictable element to the mix that secretly delighted me. each day they would be doing something different. sometimes a week or two passed without any trace of them. anyone leaving food in their workspace was liable to find ants crawling all over their computer and up their arms. i’m sorry to say my associates didn’t always share my appreciation of their presence.

it all continued in a sort of strained harmony until last week when the ants made the unfortunate decision to swarm. they had obviously been building up their forces, really i had no idea they’d become so numerous. our neighbours’ offices were crawling with them. the walls of the kitchen were a seething mass. the atrium was criss-crossed with ant-motorways. i can’t say it was popular with the other tenants. the man from rentokil arrived to deal with the general situation and it was made clear to me that i should really do something about the bamboo.

thus, with a heavy heart, i found myself pouring five litres of a potent liquid pesticide into the bamboo tub last friday evening after everyone else had gone home. i will miss my six-legged friends.

by way of conclusion, we’ve just taken possession of a powerful new production server and needed to think of a suitable name for it. therefore, unbeknownst to our clients, some of our hosted systems will henceforth be running on a machine called “formik”. i hope this gives lots of little ant-souls cause to smile. their memory liveth.

: c :

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