I have an apology to make. Tim Newton – I am sorry I ever laughed at you for being jumpy about insects and other creatures while we were in Peru.
There, said it. So why?
I am not the most unflappable girl I know. I do not like things that slither, scuttle or jump but I can cope with spiders and creepy crawlies quite well. Having been owned by cats for many years I had got used to dealing with their flapping, scurrying, screaming gifts. I do get startled by unexpected movements but I’m not exactly a nervous-Nancy. In Peru, Tim often made me laugh because he would jump at the tiniest bug (remember the creature in the bananas?) while I found I was able to cope with most surprises confidently. Even when a bat flew towards my flashing head torch in a toilet in Yarina I didn’t make a sound. I just dodged and continued to make my water! I later laughingly described it as something out of a slasher movie but it was just a good story, I wasn’t really bothered.
Then I moved to Myanmar. At first, it was just the mosquitoes. The tortuous buzzing in my ear at 4am drove me mad. I tried to get the landlords to put up a mosquito net but instead I got new window covers and some of the gaps around the windows stopped up. It didn’t work! I have to spray my rooms on a near daily basis and its essential if the maid’s been in as she opens all the windows and doors while she’s cleaning. I have a mosquito tennis racket thingy (pretty rubbish) and a little machine that I put on an hour before bed that is supposed to neutralize them (also pretty poor.) More often than not, I still wake up half eaten-alive, itching and swearing!
Again, I have to apologise to Tim. When we debated the killing of poor, harmless insects and I accused you of murder, I was wrong. Nothing gives me greater satisfaction than squishing the blood-sucking, bitey little bastards. Although if I get a blood-filled female I do gag a bit.
Next came the lizards. I admit I wanted a lizard to act as pest control for the insects. When I finally got one I was pleased and named him Squishy (#Pixar) but I found him difficult to live with. He took up residence in the kitchen and every time I went in there and turned the light on, he would scuttle for protection and I would quietly jump. I learnt to manage this by announcing my presence before entering the room (a mad cat woman trick learnt from years of living with a nervous cat) and being prepared for movement. And it worked.
Recently, he startled me again when I nearly stepped on him in the TV room. Then, on closer inspection, I realized he wasn’t moving. On even closer inspection (once I’d got the nerve up) I realized he was belly-up, stone-cold dead, in the middle of the room, almost like he’d had a heart attack mid ceiling-crossing and dropped where he stood. He was unceremoniously binned and removed the next day, poor thing.
Now when I go into the kitchen I still jump, as a new, tiny Squishy has taken up residence in the tiles by the light switch. Oh well, back to square one!
Then there were the bats. Having survived my bat encounter in Peru unscathed, I thought that would be an end to it. However, twice, I have returned home and switched on my bedroom light to encounter a startled bat circling my room like a toy aeroplane on a string. The problem with bats is that they do fly straight at you until the sonar kicks in and they swerve. It takes a braver girl than me to try and dodge that while trying to open windows and provide an escape route for a creature who mysteriously entered the room in the first place. Frustratingly, the first time it happened I called my neighbor in for support but when we returned the bat was gone. We searched my sparse bedroom high and low for it but it had vanished. I’m pretty sure my neighbour thought I was slightly hysterical as I squeaked and dodged my way around the room.
The second time it happened, witnesses were closer to hand, and I was vindicated because the bat did the same disappearing act again. We concluded that it must have crawled through a hole in the wall next to the air-con. Not a very big hole but certainly big enough for a bat. I have since stuffed the hole with plastic bags and am (thankfully) yet to receive a third visit.
The straw that broke the camel’s back though, was the mouse.
I had had a dark, mysterious stranger (not the nice kind) visit me for the first time in October. Something moved across my floor, just in my eye line, and entered the kitchen. I wasn’t much bothered and assumed that it was Squishy. But then it scuttled into my darkened TV room and peaked out at me from behind the TV stand. Maybe it was the darkness, or the film that I was watching, but I admit it, I was freaked out! I made a fast, girly exit from the room and closed both that and my bedroom door firmly behind me, spending a nervous night in the relative safety of my bed.
After an anxious morning checking behind the TV I decided it was a one off and forgot about it. I was only reminded of it when something similar scuttled at me from under the shoe rack, just before Christmas. Again, my neighbour was nearby but not witness to the reason for my squeak, and again I put it down to Squishy.
It was only when I returned from my Christmas travels that I discovered who my uninvited guest was. The truth is, I may have continued to live innocently alongside the bloody thing for much longer if I hadn’t been too lazy to put my things away properly. I couldn’t get my wardrobe door to shut properly because of the strap of my rucksack. Instead of dealing with it properly I just kicked it, which resulted in a small, furry bullet shooting out from the pile of bags in there and ricocheting off my foot before retreating under my dresser. I’m ashamed to say that that did elicit a scream from me. Not the stereotypical Tom and Jerry woman, standing on a chair, holding up her skirts scream, but a scream nonetheless. It got the same scream an hour later when it did it again as I put clothes away in the dresser. This time it went behind the headboard, so I bravely stood on the bed and shone a torch down the gap to check my suspicions were right. Yep. I had a mouse.
Since then it has been a running battle to get rid of it. The manager has been slow on the uptake and claimed he couldn’t find the hole it used to get in. He has finally put down poison but it remains untouched while the little rascal is getting bolder by the minute.
Last Sunday I was sitting on my bed relaxing, having just returned from Golden Rock, when the creak of my wardrobe door made me look up in fright. Creeping out of the cupboard was the bloody mouse. My ‘Gasp. Oh Shit!’ sent it running for the dresser, while I huddled on the bed clutching my knees.
During the week, the feeling that I was not alone in the room, has repeatedly wakened me.
Last night I was woken again. This time I distinctly heard squeaking and scuttling. It was dancing the fandango on my dresser and rattling my jewelry on its china dish. I shouted and switched on the light to glimpse the bloody thing streak up the mirror and over the top. I continued to hear rustlings for sometime to come but couldn’t bear to go and look. I was too nervous to put my feet on the floor or switch off the light and go back to sleep. If it can get on my dresser, it can get onto my bed. And me! I barely slept for the rest of the night.
This morning, when I was confident I was alone in my room (it had probably sidled past doing the two-fingered salute earlier) I went to get a cup of tea. I ended up cleaning the whole kitchen from top to bottom as I found mouse droppings everywhere. I also found that the devil had scaled my stand-alone fridge freezer in the front room and helped itself to an apple from my fruit bowl.
I admit I don’t have it as bad as some. Another neighbour discovered a rat running loose in her kitchen, a third had a cockroach in her bed (the insect kind!), and a friend in Mandalay has rats and snakes to contend with, but I’ve had enough. Every rustle, creek, and rapid movement caught out of the corner of my eye has my hairs standing on end and a cry on my lips. I’m a walking wreck through lack of sleep and I’m about ready to pack my bags and find a new place to live. I’ve never missed owning a cat so much in my life as I do right now and I’m annoyed that a rodent has the better of me.
I promise I will never laugh at those who are nervous again. But feel free to laugh at me and my pathetic inability to cope with life in the Tropics!