Column Ilja: A thousand roof tiles

On boredom, complaining, and a summer mating ritual on a jet ski.

May is the best month: the lush green, the swifts skimming through the streets at dusk, and the friendly temperatures. But the evenings are cool, causing me to stand outside with my bat detector at four in the morning in a heavy winter coat. The bat research has started again. The night is clear. The lapwings in the meadows are restless and sound like aliens in a submarine. Bats don’t like the cold, and neither do I. Bored, I hop from one leg to the other and attempt to count the roof tiles (twenty down, fifty across. One thousand tiles on this half of the roof). There are no bats -much too cold- so I got up at one in the morning for nothing.

Persistently cold and wet weather never fails to affect people. ‘Just one month before the days shorten again’, an old lady tells my grandmother in the rural supermarket. Elderly rural ladies rank number one on the list of professional complainers. Students rank second. Students complain about money, the weather, or, in the case of international students, the food. And there is much complaining about compulsory courses. ‘This teaches me nothing, so I left during the break’, is a frequent complaint. Well, not surprising if you miss half the lecture.

Elderly rural ladies rank number one on the list of professional complainers. Students rank second.

I am an optimist, and all this complaining vexes me. Even as I get little to no sleep for days on end, my optimism remains intact. The sun wakes me, and I get up and go outside. May is the month of hope. Hope that the new will always replace the old and that the complainers will be replaced by new ones. That nature will persevere, regardless.

I decide to cycle to the floodplains and spend the rest of the sunny day relaxing by the water with a book. From my spot in the grass, I see a somewhat stout man spinning around on the water with his jet ski. He is joined by another man who does the same. Together, they spin in circles, like a mating ritual. As far as I’m concerned, this beautiful performance ushers in the summer. And the days will become longer, as always, this coming month.

Ilja Bouwknegt is 24, Bachelor’s student in Forest and Nature Management, and is active at study association WSBV Sylvatica, and sometimes conducts research on bats at night.

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