Thursday, 2 September 2010

Hong Kong note book: Cockroaches

Before tiled floors, 25% Deet, Baygon and butterflies the size of my hand all become part of my normal landscape, I need to jot down what's new and strange. So don't expect coherence, logic, tight prose, answers, rational thinking, or common sense. It's all just strange, OK? But because we are home educators, you can call it living and learning.

Cockroaches. I don't run screaming from the room. Unlike other people, who I won't mention here, but who are old enough to know better. Which puts me on cockroach duty.

Cockroach duty means at 11pm I slap on my right hand the red rubber surgical glove of clean living. Then I grasp the canister of Baygon (right hand only). I do not know if Baygon cockroach killing chemical can penetrate a pressurised container and two walls of aluminium but I'm taking no chances.

Armed like a killing machine I go round all the little metal grills, the ones to drain the floors after washing, and I squirt them.

I feel a bit guilty. I'm not desiring cockroaches as pets or anything, and I certainly don't want them scuttering near my naked toes, but they didn't do anything to deserve the death sentence I'm serving them.

So I'm looking for reasons why they should die. They are enormous, but so am I. They have long antenna. (Apparently the reason why Dig uses the escape route along the top of the furniture - and he tells the kids off for climbing on the sofa. Tsk). And cockroaches run quick. These are their crimes. Dig tells me, as he hops over the dining table, goes up the cabinet, and disappears by means of a rope, that cockroaches live in drains. Dig, I hear tell of people in London who do that but we don't send in the red rubber glove police to spray them with nerve gas.

And what is a cockroach after all? Just another of the world's insect life going about its business. In fact, if life had trained me differently, I could quite like the behaviour of the little creatures. They creep in darkness, peer around, then run off to hide when you flick on a light stitch. That's sort of cute, isn't it? It's like a nervous experience they're having. Why are we making it worse?

Maybe people worry that if we don't continuously threaten them with brooms and lights and Baygon then the millions of hiding cockroaches will advance boldly. And once they are truly out we'll never get them back in. They'll just be more confident, stand around, demand hot drinks and chocolate cookies and build warm nests in your knicker drawer.

I am still at the soft end of living. What I would prefer to do, rather than killing them, is put up little signs to say, 'Please leave this house immediately'. We could add helpful messages, like 'I believe there are juicy morsels to eat round the back of the sticky chicken shop.' Yes, I know cockroaches cannot read. But that can't be an excuse for killing them either.

You can see I am having a small dilemma about the cockroach extermination requirement which has become part of the job description since moving to Hong Kong. It is a small crisis, and I expect it will pass. Soon I will be cold and remorseless, a sort of Arnold Schwarzenegger in rubber gloves.

I need to note two other small features of a cockroaching life.

One is their amazing ability to appear dead, two hours after being zapped by Baygon, but then, as you go to sweep them up and throw them over the neighbour's side of the house, they pop round and run off before dropping dead again. This behaviour has even caused me some alarm, and I now wait 12 hours before sweeping them up.

The second follows from this dialogue.

Child: 'What is that smell? It smells like lemons.'
Grit: 'Baygon.'
Child: 'What is Baygon? Is it an air freshener?'
Grit: 'It is a cockroach killing chemical. I think it is toxic. Do not breathe it in.'

I note that complete dispersal of an entire family can take place in less than one second flat. Now, when I need a bit of peace and quiet, I merely don the red rubber glove, strategically position the canister of Baygon on the floor and, behind it, shut the office door.


Sam said...

I'm afraid I would be one of those running across the back of the sofa, screaming!
Since I spent 10 minutes last night rescuing a worm from the recycling bag, I know where you're coming from.
But good trick for piece and quiet. Wonder how long it'll be before they realise? I might have to try that :-)

sharon said...

Go for the heavy duty barrier spray! Sons have always rented older properties which are rife with the dirty little beasties and the barrier spray works best as it goes on killing - including eggs - the other stuff is ok for spot eradication. Having always had a new house since moving here, the barrier spray has kept them out, even now that we are out of town and get lots of different creepie-crawlies (which also die! I no longer have any green credentials were insects are concerned ;-(

PS you can freeze cockroaches and they still come back to life!

Anonymous said...

I do know what you mean and sort of admire the cockraoch resilience. I'd just prefer they were resilient elsewhere, that's all....

Paradise Lost In Translation said...

They DID make warm nests in my knicker drawer. Wreaked havoc amongst my undies. I also used to have teh soft 'glass & piece of card approach to 'removing insects' from house (& spiders. After moving to Sri Lanka, I became a full on committer of 'Insecticide' on a regular basis. I wacked, crushed & sprayed everything. cockroaches, ants, HUGE spiders. I left the geckos alone. they used to fall on me often, but we lived side by side. It IS a constant wearying battle unfortunately. good luck!

Grit said...

your comments have cheered me up, people, thank you! i am happy to take the advice of those more experienced than me in pest control of knicker drawer matters. hooray for baygon!

lotusbirther said...

Apparently some part of cockroach brains can kill E.coli though...

lotusbirther said...

Now there's a novel home ed project.