TRAVEL: COMPETITION: LITERALLY LOST 78

This excerpt has been taken from a work of travel literature. Readers are invited to tell us: a) where is the action taking place? b) who is the author? Blackwell's Bookshops will award pounds 30-worth of book tokens to the first correct answer out of the hat. Answers on a postcard to: Literally Lost, Independent on Sunday, 1 Canada Square, London E14 5DL. Usual competition rules apply. Entries to arrive by this Thursday. Literally lost 77: The book was The Aran Islands by J M Synge. The action took place in the Aran Islands. The winner is Geraldine McElligott of London SE5.

Our crop, Lyn Householder said, pointing to a colour photograph in the family album. The picture might have been of the Arabian desert, it was so hard to distinguish between the 6- or 8-inch sandy stubs of wheat and the parched soil in which they had died. From horizon to horizon, the land was all one colour, and in a green year I found it hard to recognize that it was the same land that lay outside the window of the room in which we sat.

"1988. Our last hopper year. I shouldn't say our last; I mean our most recent hopper year. We'll see drought again. We'll see some hoppers."

"When do you know for sure that you've got a hopper year on your hands?"

"Usually you see small ones on the ground - and it's dry, you don't have much moisture. Then they fly in, about the first week in July."

"What do they look like?"

"There's a real big grasshopper that flies, I would say about two inches long. Then there's one about three-quarters of an inch long; they're dark, almost black, and they're the ones that destroy things. The big ones are called natives but these ones aren't natives, these ones that fly in and do damage."

"So they're aliens - like me."

"You said it, I didn't-"

"Let's say visitors," said Mrs Householder from behind the breakfast bar.

"But they come in, and they're dark-"

"They come in clouds," said Mrs Householder.

"They're a dark colour. You take your hand and shade the sun out, and on the edge you can just see them there, like a light smoke. It won't darken the sun too much, but if you darken the sun with your hand and look around the edge, you can see them flying. They fly in, spend about four days, and then they pull out. They really work hard. You'll see a wheat stalk top to bottom with them, they're that thick on it. Then they're gone again."

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