Monday, February 02, 2009

Flue Epidemic


Casualty of woe

It was always going to happen. Previously I’ve mentioned that small winged things have a habit of toppling into my fireplace. The origin of the term bird-brained is no longer a mystery to me. Usually they make such a racket pecking away at the glass door that I hear them and affect a rescue. However, I have to be home for the system to work. The beach is just too enticing at the moment for that to occur, being as the temperature has maintained itself at approximately that required to temper steel for the entire week. Consequently, I have just now buried my first kamikaze. I don’t know what made me look in the stove. I just had a hideous feeling. Nothing had gone wrong in several days and I found myself thinking, ‘oh there must be some appalling life experience of the fresh hell variety awaiting me somewhere in this great big old house of biological horrors.’ Et voilá! There was this poor little chap, lying flat on his little downy back in a bed of ash with his little curled up legs pointing heavenward, as dead as George W Bush’s dinner circuit prospects.

The burial service was short but dignified. I’d no sooner re-shelved my Auden than fuck me if there wasn’t another near tragedy. Hearing the all too familiar frantic pecking resound through the house, I opened the front door and then carefully released the stove door. Instead of flying out, the latest captive darted upstairs and immediately trapped itself in a skylight. I thought, ‘who am I dealing with here, Sylvia Plath?’ So I opened the deck door, got out the broom and a tea towel and improvised a coaxing ritual that was probably more matador than Attenborough. Eventually it worked but not before a dozen flies had taken advantage of the lapse in security. So I spent the next half hour chasing around the house with a rolled up newspaper. Not that there’s much to attract a fly in my kitchen. All I’m interested in at the moment is gin, sauvignon blanc and ice cream. Flies don’t seem to have the capacity for strategic reconnaissance, more’s the pity.

It’s Australia, innit? There is not one creature on this whole continent that is not either suicidal, homicidal or boorishly keen to join you for lunch. How is it that fauna can be so benign on one continent and so aggressive on another? Flies are a case in point. In Britain you can happily leave all your windows open throughout the summer. Flies will come in but, instead of raiding your smorgasbord or testing your ears to see if they contain undiscovered culinary treats, they simply circle the centre of the room is if they were gleefully Morris dancing the afternoon away, leaving you to concentrate on the delights of Wimbledon interactive. It’s a master class in symbiosis. I don’t know what British flies eat but it certainly isn’t barbeque. These are the same animal but their national characteristics are pure Jekyll and Hyde. I suppose some humourless science buff will email me to inform me curtly that the British fly’s DNA is closer to that of the sperm whale than to its Australian namesake. Come to think of it, you don’t usually have to shoo sperm whales away from your coronation chicken so it may well be the case.

I had a flatmate in London who was so scared of spiders that you could casually remark, ‘Oh Chris, I thought I saw a spider go into your room this morning,’ and he’d leave town for a fortnight. It was pretty handy if you wanted the place to yourself for a while. I have a spider in my kitchen that is the size of a Messerschmitt, just as mean looking and possibly even faster. Unhappily for both of us, it thinks my toaster is Manumission. There are creepy centipedes commuting through my garden and I’ve no doubt snakes lurking in any number of dark and mysterious culs-de-sac just waiting for the moment to re-enact Anaconda for my entertainment.

There is not one single dangerous spider or snake in the whole of Britain. Again science nerds, I know about the adder but when was the last time you heard of someone being bitten by one? It would be more sensible to live in fear of being bum-fucked by a unicorn than to worry about meeting an adder in Theydon Bois. My kitchen spider is a huntsman therefore, although huge, hairy and capable of travelling at the speed of light, is not actually a threat except in the gothic sense. But the other day, I had to escort a rather more unnerving looking arachnid from my shower stall. In Australia, it’s the little harmless looking spiders you have to worry about, even I know that.

One tries to live in harmony with nature but it’s enormously difficult when nature is so relentlessly combative. Apart from ants for which I have no sentiment, mosquitoes (clearly self defence), and flies of course, I don’t like to be responsible for animal fatalities. I think I ran over a lizard on a bush track last week. I didn’t get out of the car to look just in case it wasn’t (a) a lizard (b) dead. The other day I was mortified when I accidentally dispatched a bee. Thinking it was a fly that snuck in during an unavoidable door opening event, I flattened it with a copy of the Larrikin’s End Examiner. Flies shouldn’t be allowed to buzz, it’s far too confusing. They aren’t in Britain. Perhaps the Australian fly is a cross between a bee and a child brought up on McDonalds. It’s upsetting enough to erroneously eliminate a honey bee but being the mistress of a perpetual death trap flue is unacceptably unnerving. I expect I’ll have to do something about it although what that might be I can’t imagine. Perhaps I could put up some warning signs. Barney’s just suggested ‘mind the gap’. I can see the logic in that. They’d think they were at Bank Station and obviously immediately turn around and go back. No one goes to Bank Station unless they absolutely have no choice. It’s worth a try…