Hot, muggy nights make for bug frights

The sweltering heat we’re enduring at the moment puts me in mind of the many years I spent on night-shift at the Daily Dispatch in their old building in Caxton Street in the dying years of the hot-metal newspaper era.

Air conditioning in those days was a luxury and the muggy summer months were spent working amid a bank of Linotype machines and various other assorted machinery which fed off a diet of molten lead constantly heated to temperatures of well over 500 degrees Fahrenheit 260°C.

As you can imagine, one got home physically drained in the early hours of the morning after putting the paper to bed.

But we were young and strong in those far-off days and shrugged the oppressive heat off as part of the job.

Later, if I may be permitted to continue in this vein, I was transferred to The Rep in Queenstown for the next 21 years. And if I thought the summer nights in East London were stifling, the first few summers in that once beautiful little town nearly put me in hospital.

I remember one year keeping track of the daily temperature and for 10 consecutive days, the thermometer hovered around the 40 degree mark. I hesitate to say it now but our only rickety air conditioner was in my office and occasionally I allowed the staff to cool off in there – if they were good!

No doubt many of you watch BBC News on the box and when you see places in the Middle East and Australia regularly topping 45°C, I suppose we can’t complain too much.

Which brings me to the point of this little piece – the horde of flying pests that accompany weather like that.

Lying in bed in the suffocating heat the other night, a nephew of mine here in East London thought something had buzzed into his ear and for the life of him, he couldn’t remove it.

His doctor could find nothing and told him to pour a little oil down the lug-hole. Still no relief. Back to the doctor who after extensive examination found a little hair growing the wrong way and tickling his ear drum. Would you believe it!

All of which reminds me of a story I read recently where the more cautious folk of Darwin, Australia are going to bed these days wearing headphones.

That’s ever since the dreadful experience of one Hendrik Helmer who woke in the early hours with a terrible pain in his right ear. A cockroach had crawled in deep and was having fun down there doing whatever it is a cockroach does in a person’s ear.

Hendrik tried to suck it out with the vacuum cleaner. Then he tried to drown it by pouring in water. Nothing worked.

The cockroach just burrowed in deeper. The pain was becoming excruciating. Then Hendrik’s flatmate drove him to hospital. A doctor poured some oil down the ear canal and that drove the cockroach frantic. It was as if an elephant was doing the gumboot dance on his eardrum.

Then at last the doctor managed to catch the critter in a pair of forceps and carefully draw it out, still twitching!

It was 2cm long.

People in Darwin now wear headphones to bed. It’s as well because the cockroaches there apparently grow to 9cm in length. You’d rather go to sleep listening to rock music than to a 9cm cockroach dancing the flamenco in your ear hole wouldn’t you!


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