In Peninsular Spanish, to experience “una noche Toledana” means to pass a sleepless night. I’ve never slept particularly well, and moving to Toledo, where the expression was coined, hasn’t exactly helped matters. There are a number of reasons why this city isn’t the most restful in the wee hours: the infernal summer heat, kids bouncing around till 2am (even on a school night), rubbish collections at ungodly hours, the never-ending building renovations. But these are not the only armaments Toledo has in store for torturing its insomniac residents.
Take Sunday night, which was a particularly frazzling one for me, even by Toledanian standards. And for a very Toledanian reason.
I’d dozed off while reading in bed, and came round again just after 1am. So, I put my book away and reached for the light switch, when I noticed a black shadow swoop across the ceiling.
Great. A bloody bat. It had come in through the lounge window and found its way into my bedroom. Toledo is full of bats. At nightfall, they rise over the city roofs like great big storm clouds. This place is a veritable Gotham City (the medieval version). The nocturnal creatures dwell in the hundreds of abandoned buildings, and they are probably the only reason why we’re not up to our ankles in cockroaches (although there are still plenty!).
I’m fond of bats, but not so much when they are hurtling through my bed chamber. I’ve had visits from the odd stray one before, and normally, they enter and leave the flat in the blink of an eye. To facilitate the hapless intruder’s escape, I opened the bedroom window as wide as it would go.
Unfortunately, this bat’s sonar seemed to be malfunctioning. It kept circling round the room like one of these toy aeroplanes that are attached to the centre of the ceiling with a string. It came dangerously close to crashing into my head a few times, so I left the room and peered at the infiltrator from the lounge.
If it would only fuck off through the window or flit back into the lounge, in which case I could just shut the door, and it would eventually dash back out the same way it had come in. I was certainly not going to share my bedroom with a short-circuiting bat!
After fifteen minutes of this, the bat had finally vanished. Good. I shut the window and went back to bed. Once more I fumbled for the light switch, when the blasted black flutterer was suddenly back in orbit. After taking a little breather in my dressing room, it had gone full-on kamikaze. I let out my girliest shriek and flung open the window (I should perhaps mention that I was completely starkers, it’s too hot to sleep with clothes on), and bolted out of the bedroom.
That moron of a bat continued on its merry loops. Sigh. What to do? Unlike birds, you can’t catch these things, they are way too fast. A bird you can chase, you can tire it out, you can trap it in a towel once it goes to ground. Maybe I could manoeuvre psycho bat towards the window by shooing it gently with a large folded cardboard box?
I was forced to abort the attempt after about five seconds. It only served to make the pesky little critter even more frantic. Not sure what freaked it out more, the flapping of the box or that of my middle-aged-lady boobs.
Eventually, it must have been around 2.30am, the wretched creature found the exit, and I collapsed onto my bed.
But my in-flight entertainment wasn’t quite over.
Just as I was about to glide into Morpheus’s arms, I heard it. That unmistakeable high-pitched buzz emitted by the most vexatious insect in the entire world. A freakin’ mozzie!
Well, what did I expect, after having the windows open and the lights on? So, I dragged myself off the woodpile yet again. To my relief, I spotted the little sucker sitting on the wall almost instantly. And I eradicated it. With evil chemicals. It felt good.
And yet, I would not find peace that night. When I finally did manage to get to sleep, I was plagued by a horrendous nightmare about somehow having ended up back in Peterborough, a soulless East Anglian commuter town, where I had once vegetated, enveloped in a grey cloud of drizzle, for an entire decade… the memory of which shall haunt me for infinitely longer than any of those connected to bats or mosquitoes.