No sting in the tale

It happened again last week. Twice in fact. It’s not something I enjoy doing particularly in one respect, but I am aware that many people are impressed, or sometimes fascinated by it.

I can kill wasps by waiting for the wasp to fly in front of me and I then clap my hands together and squash it between the palms of my hands. My ‘skill’ was called into action as we were having a barbeque, the conservatory door was open, it was a warm late summer afternoon and this was a heady mix for some of our local wasps. We also had a guest, Georgia, and the first wasp was taking a liking to Georgia – or her food.

I have had this skill for about 20 or 30 years now. I often get asked how I developed the skill – which seems a reasonable question. It just happened that someone was getting very, very scared by the proximity of a wasp, I had nothing else to use to attack it and so clapped my hands with the wasp between them. End of.  The other question I am often asked is whether I have ever been stung whilst doing this. The answer is no – and I must have done it a couple of hundred times before.

We spent a holiday on a boat with another family in the beautiful Croatia about 10 years ago. Croatia has a lot of wasps and so I ended up using my skill on a number of occasions. Stuart, a member of the other family, was relatively impressed with the skill and having seen me do it quite a number of times decided that it obviously wasn’t too difficult and so he would have a go. He asked for some instruction on how I did it, which I happily gave, and off he went. He only did it once – he got stung! And I can still remember the way he looked at me – as if to say, “You knew that was going to happen”. But I didn’t. He is the only other person I have ever seen attempt it. Is my skill so unique?

I was asked again in some detail last week as to how I do it. Other than to say I wait until the wasp is about 18 inches in front on me and at about chest height, and then I clap my hands together quickly with the wasp between them, I don’t really know what else to add. Do you try to get it with the palms of your hands or the part between the palm indent and the bottom of the fingers I was asked? I don’t really know. As soon as I do it, I know I always remove the wasp as quickly as possible in case there is still a sting in the tale [sic].

The one aspect that is more difficult to help someone learn is my belief in reaching a successful outcome. It is one of the few things I can do (which few other people can do) where I have complete and absolute belief in my ability to achieve it. Stuart didn’t have that belief – I could see he approached it with trepidation, nervous of being stung. He worried about it happening, and it did – he generated a self-fulfilling prophecy. And belief is, I know, the key ingredient of my success.

And as the skill comes so effortlessly to me, I’m possibly the worst person to explain to someone else how to do it. You may have heard the phrase, “Those that can’t do it, teach it”. And I think there is a lot of sense in that saying. If you can’t do something, and have tried all sorts of different ways to be able to do something, you may well be the best person to teach others. In the same way, for example, that the world’s top tennis players are coached by ex-players who were not as good at tennis themselves.

As I look at the wind and rain outside this morning, I expect I will not be using my skill again until next year. But when I do, I know exactly what the result will be.

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