If you’re planning to read this over breakfast, don’t.
So, one sunny morning in May, while getting dressed, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a dead beetle at the foot of the wardrobe. I went to my desk, got a piece of paper and scooped it up. I looked at it. I looked at it closely. It was quite big, almost two inches in length, with a pair of long, delicate feelers and tiny, vestigial wings. And then it dawned on me.
This was no beetle.
But at least it was dead.
A quick google confirmed my worst suspicions.
I’d never actually seen a cockroach before. In real life, I mean. Oh, what a sheltered life I’d once led in Europe’s sanitised northern parts. But this were its nether regions. This was Spain.
Maybe it was a lost lone ranger, blown by a gust of wind through the little bathroom window I kept open at all times for ventilation (a well-documented German compulsion), and it had then popped its clogs in the adjoining dressing room due to a lack of food. That was my theory. A.k.a. denial.
My bubble burst the very next morning, when, with my senses primed, I saw a live one flitting across the dressing room floor. We both stopped in our tracks, the beastly creature and I, we stared at each other for a few seconds, before it slid underneath the wardrobe in a huff.
We did have a problem. Dammit!
I flew out the door like grease lightning to get bug killer in both spray and powder form, and I sprinkled the latter all along the skirting boards (they move like mice, you see). Not a pretty sight. The flat looked like it had a bad case of dandruff, and I kept stepping in the damn stuff with my bare feet. I expect to come down with brain cancer any day now.
I read everything I could about cockroaches. It became a mini obsession. I learned all about the different kinds. Apparently, ‘mine’ were Blatta orientalis, or Oriental cockroaches, which, I learned to my great relief, were incapable of scaling up smooth surfaces. But then, I also read that they are regarded as the ‘dirtiest’ kind. Yeuch….
I interrogated my local friends about their roach slaying techniques. One of them, who has a bit of a phobia, told me she had found a dead one under her guest bed a couple of weeks ago. She sprayed her entire house in a frenzy, and ended up in casualty for the night with severe breathing difficulties.
Brimming with all this newfound expertise, I went on another mission to acquire traps laced with poison bait to add to my extermination arsenal. I was in luck: it was buy-four-get-two-free at my local supermarket. Clearly, ’tis was the season. I had calculated that I needed around ten to fifteen traps. I bought forty.
I was ready for war. Over the next three weeks, my morning routine included traipsing around the flat in disgust-laden anticipation, scanning the floor for black bodies and clutching a can of insecticide like a Jedi Knight his lightsaber. (Darth Vader was inspired by a cockroach, of that I am convinced). Some of the ones I encountered, you see, weren’t quite dead yet but far too sick to run, and a blast would finish them off.
Next, I would send an email entitled ‘The Daily Body Count: [Insert Number]’ to my landlady, and also to a friend of mine for moral support.
A battle is not a proper battle unless somebody bears witness to your outstanding bravery, right?!
The Bugtoria Cross must still be in the post.
All the way through this, I was a nervous wreck. I compulsively checked every item of clothing before putting it on, as well as every inch of my bed before I dared to get in. I was even afraid to get up in the middle of the night for a wee, in case I stepped on one of these ghastly beasties in the dark.
Nothing could be left out in the kitchen, no unwashed plates, no rubbish in the bin, no crumbs anywhere. And yet, I knew that it was impossible to starve them out – roaches will eat soap or glue from book bindings if they have to. I had read that they could survive for an entire week after their heads had been chopped off! And then they die of thirst, apparently, not hunger.
After three long and fretful weeks, there were no more bodies. Also, I had figured out their point of entry: the bathtub plughole, which I’ve been keeping hermetically sealed ever since when not in use.
All that remains of this unappetising episode, fingers crossed(!), is a brand new paranoia and a bladder with the same holding capacity as a bloke’s. I’m also keeping the traps in place, just in case, and there are several cans of insecticide in strategic positions dotted around the flat.