Friday, July 16, 2010



                                                                              (Mosquito cartoon respectfully borrowed from here )

It was in room 301 up three steep flights of stairs in a small undistinguished hotel near the Porte de Versailles metro station that, on the night of the World Cup final, I fought my own brave battle against a ruthless and perfectly trained team, determined to steal at least one goblet-full of my fresh, formerly French blood, if not the whole bloody barrel. 

The temperature in Paris was around 38 Centigrade and humid so of course I had the window open (air conditioning? Hahahahaha. Ventilateur? Pas possible.) Outside this window were other windows and a very green, very leafy tree whose very tall trunk stood in a courtyard littered with indeterminate junk of vegetable, mineral or possibly animal origin. How could I know that all these factors combined provided the perfect conditions for the enemy to perform at its lethal best? 

The first I knew that there even existed an enemy in my room was when, right up against my ear, I heard its sinister high-pitched ziiiiiiiiieeeee cry, instantly setting off the rage and panic bells in my brain. Whether it's because that sound reminds me of nights under mosquito nets in Paraguay, or some more ancient atavistic fear, the fact is that the buzz of a mosquito drives me nuts, completely bonkers. I began by merely flailing and flapping, then hiding under the sheet, then feeling I might suffocate, then tried to build a kind of tent with a suitcase supporting the sheet on the right, a bag on the left, and me in the middle preventing the sheet from sagging by keeping knees bent and elbows raised. When I realised I would have to stay awake all night to maintain this position I wrapped every bit of my body, apart from the head, tightly in the sheet, first spraying my face with a hair-volumising product (okay I use hair volumiser sometimes, okay?) because it says on the label that it contains limonene and didn't I read somewhere that mosquitoes don't like lemon? The stuff is sticky and not meant for the face but what the hell if it repels mini-vampires. 

Then I wanted to watch Spain beat Holland but the television was placed way up on the wall opposite the bed so I had to unwrap myself and get on a chair to turn it on. During this process, the dreaded mosquito war-cry was heard again, more piercing than all the vuvuzuelas in Africa. This time I yelled back. But is a creature who's been around since Jurassic times going to be impressed by a pipsqueaked FUCKOFF ? No, it is not. My strategy had to be more radical. 

I decided to sleep on the floor of the bathroom, the tiny bathroom, and to close the door so the enemy couldn't get in. I took the heavy bedspread, folded it and put it down on the tiled floor, between the toilet, the shower cubicle and the basin (if there was a bathtub I would have slept in it). Leaving the door slightly open so I could watch the match in the crack I laid down in a Z-shaped position. Suddenly a faint movement on the white-tiled wall caught my eye. No no no! A mosquito was sitting there, calm as custard, waiting. In the split second before my hand obeyed my brain's order to squash him dead, he slipped away. I looked upwards and noticed for the first time a very small open window, high on the bathroom wall. Kaputt my bathroom plan. But crazed logic said that by locking him in the bathroom, at least I could make sure this one blood-craving addict didn't get to me . Then I went back to bed and sort of watched the rest of the World Cup final until, worn out by my inept exertions, the unbearable heat and the lack of oxygen under the covers, I drifted into unprotected sleep. 

In the morning I counted 15, FIFTEEN great big ugly itching flaming scarlet welts on my right wrist and forearm, my hip and the left side of my face. The buggers can score right through a cotton sheet.
Later today I'll blog about what I did in Paris apart from being attacked by les moustiques. Stay tuned for a visit to Andrei Korliakov (remember? He found my painting of Florence in the marché aux puces ) and also to Lucian Freud (the paintings, not the person). 


No comments: