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BiDs June 23, 2007

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.

…or bugs in distress.

Darlings, my loathing of the animal kingdom knows almost no bounds. I mean, I like a cat or a dog as much as the next man, and I may vaguely coo in pre-awe at some incredibly cute furry thing. Knut’s been known to get a coo out of me, per esempio. I dashed for the pandas when I went to Berlin zoo. I adore foxes. And would be even more impressed with the elephant/rhino/hippo fraternity if they didn’t have such bad derms.

But, god, aren’t flying, crawling, buzzing things cunts?

Berlin is a tricky place to live. The climate is basically shit. Not as shit as in London, by any stretch of the imagination. We have all the seasons here, pretty much, and give me snow and proper arcticity any day over London’s wet, even-greyer, +2 version of winter. And Berlin can do boilingness in the summer which, let’s face it, we all richly deserve having put up with the other ten months of the year.

But I’m finding the buzzing/flying/crawling sub-division of the animal kingdom almost unbearable. Of course I’ve blogged all this before – history HAS officially ended as far as my life is concerned and it’s just going over old ground from now on – but you can’t flog a dead horse too much in my book. But no sooner are the really arctic days behind us when the windows can be flung open for more than ten seconds to remove the stench of stale cigarette smoke but the loathsome beasts start to arrive.

My battle with the flies is almost constant. I mostly go for the straightforward smash but, in the spirit of Wimbledon, I’ve decided it’s time to brush up on my backhand slice too, which always takes the bastards by surprise. I’ve got a not bad in-to-out forehand. The lob is under-used. In any case, flies deserve to die, be they dispatched with Federerian skill or not.

Wasps come later in the year but are utter fiends in central Europe. It’s not unknown to have wasp-alarms announced in the press. Rumour has it a glass of water filled with sugar draws them in like wasps to a glass of water filled with sugar.

But today, as I sat drinking a thoroughly well-deserved postprandial vat of wine, I had my worst ever bug experience.

Bugs are annoying enough as it is without them being in distress. A bug in need is a cunt indeed. (Darlings, I do apologise for such liberal use of the c-word. Sometimes, especially when talking about bugs, no other four-letter word will do.) So I sat, gently wading my way through whole barrels of wine when a noise reminiscent of a plane nose-diving to the ground swamped the kitchen. I dashed to turn on the telly to see if there’d be breaking news of a jet downed over Berlin’s inclement skies. But soon realised it was no such thing. It was a bug-in-distress. Talk about not knowing how to make friends and influence people. The largest, ugliest bug I’d ever seen had kamikazed itself right into the kitchen lamp. It was AT LEAST as big as a giraffe and not nearly as pretty. It had dimly landed on its back and was flailing its loathsome little limbs corybantically, like a toddler having a tantrum. Noisy, uninvited and ugly. Not a single saving grace.

I screamed for the Russian to do something. “What IS it?” I screamed, before he prosaically answered, “bug”. “Is it a giraffe?” “It bug. BiB, you are mad. It bug.” I ran for my life, and lit myself an analgesic ciggy. The Russian warned me the coast was clear. “I throw it out vindow. It khardly fly.”

Bugs should know where and when they are welcome. They have the entire outdoor world to gambol about in, spreading disease, fear and nastiness. I’ve never seen why flies see fit to settle on the living-room lamp-shade, for example. Nothing to do with being attracted to a flame. The bastard’s switched off mostly. They should be out, getting some exercise, rather than loafing round the house watching me not work. Wasps know that everyone loathes them and pop in just to spite you. And bugs as big as giraffes should just stay in Botswana or wherever it is they call habitat.

They all make it very hard to believe in god indeed.



1. Mangonel - June 23, 2007

Bugs! I hate fucking bugs!

No. I mean I fucking hate bugs. I wouldn’t fuck a bug, not for ready money.

Or . . . – just how much money are we talking abou . . . sorry.

And ‘corybantically’! Such a great word. (Wasn’t Cybele the one who made her followers, the male ones at least, unman themselves?)

2. bowleserised - June 23, 2007

Yes, you get so many points for using corybantically!

My dad had a phobia of May Bugs and used to board up the chimney to keep them out. They’re the really primitive ones that fly by filling themselves up with air and farting it out. I think. They like to fly into hair and get confused.

3. ChristinaG - June 23, 2007

Haha. I thought bugs in Berlin were bad, but you ought to see the Bavarian countryside bugs (or maybe not). At least the odd flies in Berlin just buzz around ones Ikea Regolit lampshades. Bavarian flies follow you around the house, attempting to land on any exposed piece of skin the moment you stop paying attention, and they also somehow know when you’ve got the flyswatter out and scatter to the four winds (only to return when you give up and sit down again). I swear, I’ve lured them into a room, quickly locked the door, and five minutes later they are with me again. I don’t see how they do this. There are no gaps around the door!

And don’t get me started on the earwigs dropping in all over the place. Ugh!

4. Appy Linguist - June 23, 2007

I hate the evil bastards. They’re worst at work, where I currently have ridiculously long days. After ten hours of sweating in various classrooms, my office, the corridors, the toilets and the great outdoors, I sit in my last class of the day with all the flies making a beeline for the smelly teacher. It’s embarrassing. Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t even use the expression ‘No flies on me’. No, not at all: ‘LOTS OF flies on me’. I’ve given up swiping them off, needing to focus only on protecting my eyes. Perhaps I should take my electric-shock-giving tennis-racquet-style fly swat to work with me? It’s certainly my weapon of choice against the nasty little fuckers.

5. Ed Ward - June 23, 2007

Flies: I was shocked to see a roll of flypaper hanging in a neighbor’s window. I didn’t even know they made the stuff anymore.

But lamps! Dang, try having a halogen lamp. I’ll be reading at night with the windows open on a nice evening (we used to have them, I think…) and a moth will kamikaze in, head straight for the halogen, land on it, and within seconds a curl of dark smoke will issue forth. With the worst! smell! ever! Sometimes they even turn into a small column of flame. Zoom, poof, stink. Over and over. Gack.

6. Arabella - June 23, 2007

Can I join the line for cap-doffing? “Corybantically” is the best c word I’m going to hear all day. Wonderful.
There’s nothing quite so satisfying as swatting a fly, especially when it involves some sneaky sneaking up. I used to be very Fotherington-Thomas but now I have the grace of Yvonne Goolagong and the righteous power of the young John MacEnroe combined in my lob. (?!)Take that!

7. MountPenguin - June 23, 2007

For moths I can heartily recommend getting a cat. Ours views moths as a kind of manna from heaven – a snack which offers up to 45 minutes of entertainment before it is finally consumed. The trick is to make sure any source of light is close to the ground, otherwise you (well, at least I do) will end up holding the cat in the air chasing after the moth while the cat takes swipes at it.

8. Mangonel - June 24, 2007

Fotherington-Thomas! Love him! Hello clouds, hello sky. hello corybants!

9. pleite - June 24, 2007

Mango, I’m going to have to bow to your greater knowledge on this one. Didn’t you want to call your children lots of Cybele-like names, but then we worried there’d be confused with Vauxhall cars? I am, mid-type, shouting, “fuck off,” and running round the room after flies. I’m thinking of having fly-swats surgically attached to all my limbs. Germaine Greer said she once ate food that flies had pooed on and it was the most hallucinatory experience imaginable. God, I loathe the little shits.

Penguin, oddly, I can just about bear moths. I’d rather they didn’t exist, naturally, but I’m not actually petrified of them. Still, not good when they fly in your face. I remember being in cars somewhere in the north of Ireland when my grandparents were still alive and the windscreen would be splattered constantly with the things.

Arabella, it’s a good c-word, isn’t it, though I have to confess having to look up how to spell it. Corybantic, I mean. Not it. I can spell it. I thought there might be an h in it. Corybantic, I mean. Not it. There’s no h in it. It was a shame when Ms. Goolagong married someone with a boring surname, wasn’t it? What was it again? Smith or something. Bet she never won another single match after that. (It’s all Australian women today. I’ll see if I can squeeze in what’s-‘er-face Mrs. Connolly too.)

Ed, still, if it kills them, I’m quite tempted. But the stink would be an unwelcome accompaniment to the enhappying death. But I suppose we can’t expect death to start smelling nice. Do they just kill moths, or will it also do flies and wasps? I quite look forward to seeing wasps go up in flames. My ex and his brother got rid of a wasp’s nest in the latter’s house by setting fire to it. They were stung to fuck in the wasp-exodus, but hopefully a good few died in unspeakable agony, so that’s the main thing.

Appy, I’ve seen the photo of your tennis-racquet thing and it looks very impressive. I need to invest. My fly-swat is very low-tech, but has quite a nice red handle but a brand-name written in such a silly font I can’t even decipher it. Why do flies land on one? Just sheer nastiness? I mean, they don’t bite or suck our blood, do they?

Christina, doesn’t Charlie help out at times like this? I say get those underpants on him and the lampshade back on his head and he should act as the perfect scarebug. Oh gosh, yes, I imagine the countryside must be even worse. Bad luck. And Bavarian bugs to boot. I hope they don’t get all haughty and conservative on you. When I was a youngster, London only seemed to have flies and wasps (though not nearly as many as here). But mosquitoes have since entered the equation. The only time when Finland and Russia are perfect, climate-wise, i.e. the super-long summer days, is pure mosquito hell. They turn the sky black. Loathsome swarms of the sods. I would sometimes drip with blood from so many bites, or my ankles would swell to the size of my knees. Oddly, I don’t remember Thailand being too bad for bugs, though it must have plenty of exotic ones in its repertoire.

B., I don’t know may bugs, but what could be worse than flatulence-propelled flying things? Why do these creatures exist? What can they have been better than at evolutionarily to have made it this far? Maybe there was a brand of fly that accidentally farted inwards and exploded, which I suppose would be worse. Oh god, I hate the animal kingdom. Don’t let’s even mention crocodiles. God I hate them, especially when they kill the poor zebras and wildebeest on those nice nature programmes. Thankfully, they don’t at least try to get into our flat.

10. Ed Ward - June 25, 2007

Hot breaking technology news: the Vietnamese fruit-and-vegetable stand owners near me on Ackerstr. have a thing that looks just like a kid’s tennis racket, but has a bunch of batteries in the handle. From time to time the husband or wife will occupy themselves by waving it around in the storeroom. When it encounters a fly, there’s a zap-sizzle noise, and, presumably, one less bug. Want me to make inquiries? Has anyone else seen one of these?

As for crocodiles, I don’t think you’ll find them in Pankow. Down south in Zehlendorf, well, that’s another matter entirely.

11. bowleserised - June 25, 2007

Did you see that story about the boy who taunted a crocodile in a zoo and it ate him?

I have to admit I was on the crocodile’s side there.

12. marshaklein - June 25, 2007

Regarding your last comment concerning the existence of God, I thought you might find this amusing:


And while we’re on the subject, does anyone know how to get rid of woodlice? Seriously?

P.S For Arabella and Mango, my favourite bug-related Molesworth quote:

“He toss his tawny head and a hale of beetles fall out”

13. pleite - June 25, 2007

Marsha, you need to get on to Halp! and hopefully some clever spark will give you your answer in ten seconds… And re. god, one of his chief oversights for me was not forgetting to invent earthquakes and volcanoes. Why were they deemed suitable for the menu?

B., I haven’t seen that one. Is it recent? The child was at least taught a lesson, so we can content ourselves with the thought that he didn’t die in vain. Who was it… Lukeski sent it to me, I think… that wrote about a crocodile which ate a scientist but the scientist survived and then held forth from within the crocodile? Mind you, it might have been an alligator. Or even a whale, come to think of it.

Ed, I really do need to invest. It’s sounds just like the thing Appy sang the praises of. I’ve been so busy killing today that I think I began to know what it feels like to be a mass-murderer. I had to sit down at the kitchen table and gather my thoughts as, I presume, a particularly busy mass-murderer must do when he has a number of bodies to get rid of. I can’t cope with the disposal-of-the-body part of my efforts. I hope for quick biodegradation but I think the Russian actually clears up after me.

14. Appy Linguist - June 25, 2007

Yep, mine has batteries. The flies/mosquitos/moths/spiders remain inside it, and you just tap them off out of the window. Not that I use it on moths and spiders, as they both reek when they fry. Besides, spiders do half your work for you on the fly-eating front. Not that I eat flies, mind. Well, not intentionally.

15. matkr - June 25, 2007

yes ed, i can highly recommend those mini-tennis-racquet shaped insect zappers – but i ended up buying 2 of ’em, as the first just lost its ‘zappiness’ after awhile, despite eating fresh AA batteries like there was no tomorrow. mind you, this may have to do with humidity-heat-tropics-resilient mosquitos … and i’ve yet to test them out here, where we’ve yet to encounter the scourge of mozzies so prevalent back in der motherland.

16. narrowback - June 25, 2007

all you folks with phobias about flying insects should count your blessings that you don’t reside here…we’re just finishing up with the once every 17 year emergence of cicada Brood XII… a plague of truly biblical proportions. millions – yes, millions per acre – of bugs the size of a 10 year old’s thumb that have the flight skills of a drunken beginner. ugly as sin as well.

I myself don’t mind ’em much except for the constant 90 decibel drone. it was the hordes of seagulls that followed (to feast at the unexpected banquet) that got to me…flying at near eye level oblivious to nearby humans not to mention having to wash my car on a near daily basis to eliminate the polka dot motif.

17. pleite - June 25, 2007

Oh dear, Narrowback, they sound like no fun. I quite like the idea of cicadas, because they remind me of summer nights in nice places like Montélimar, where their chirruping is a constant accompaniment. Mind you, we have an invisible one – or maybe a cricket. I can’t hear the difference – in this flat somewhere – I think it’s caught down behind a Billy – and I won’t mind that much when he dies. Chicago’s yet another one of those cities built on a swamp, isn’t it? Honestly, when will we ever learn? Mind you, can’t remember if the Marais in Paris is particularly horrid.

Matkr, yes, I can imagine Berlin doesn’t come up to the tropics on the mozzie front. We really do need to colonise the moon or that moon of Saturn’s (or whichever planet it is) which is apparently just like Earth. Is it Titan or something? All the benefits – OK, the moon doesn’t have that much going for it, but the golf courses wouldn’t be so thirsty – with, we hope, a bit more space, providing we don’t all move there, and not a ghastly creature in sight. Still, domestic pets in space-suits might just be too ludicrous. I never did watch Pigs in Space up until the end.

Appy, I can’t help thinking it’s a bit of a sin to kill spiders. Not big furry ones which would happily kill us, but the ones which crawl lazily about this flat. I did have to tell one off for coming a bit too close for comfort today and it scuttled off with its tail between its (many) legs. Do you know I heard that spiders are actually of an extremely nervous disposition? Wrecks, apparently. They’re shit scared of us (and noise, and other extraneous oddities) so expressing your displeasure at seeing one with a fairly loud groan should make them spin off. Can’t mind too much about moths. I give you my blessing to bludgeon those to death mercilessly.

18. ChristinaG - June 26, 2007

I want one of those mini-electric tennis rackets! Where does one find them? At the Baumarkt?

We had the cicadas in Virginia when I was a kid. The Washington Post published a bunch of recipes for cooking them. They’re supposed to be yummy, I decided to take the reporter’s word on that.

Charlie’s no help bugwise. He does try though, but they’re all too quick for him. They taunt him for fun. As you saw in my recent post, these Bavarian flies are a bunch of sick, deranged freaks.

19. Ed Ward - June 26, 2007

Narrowback, are you sure you don’t live in Salt Lake City? That story sounds pretty familiar to me…

And Christina, I’ve heard rumors that they’re delicious deep-fried. Crunchy, like.

20. narrowback - June 26, 2007

BiB – the scattered chirping of “normal” annual cicadas do contribute to the summery feel of July/August in the midwest but the hordes of Brood XII could put you right off… it was so loud and encompassing that it was akin to the sound effects of 1950’s sci-fi flicks. you half expected to see a flying saucer swoop in instead of the seagulls.

Chicago is indeed built on a swamp or, more accurately, on landfill that filled the swamp. Aside from the occaisional poor drainage and the sight of older homes having one or two floors located beneath street level you’d never know it. However, the cicadas are not swamp related and for the most part confined to the suburbs and rural areas. Since they need to burrow into the soil for most of their 17 year life cycle they tend to not do well in areas that are paved over.

Christina – just before this emergence the local media – print and electronic – provided oodles of recipes for the buggers. while i am renowned for my daring when it comes to trying exotic cuisine there’s no way I’m eating bugs…raw, stir fried, deep fried or otherwise.

Ed – If I recall my LDS mythology correctly the seagulls/bug conflict in Salt Lake City involved locusts. But given the LDS penchant for staging massive overproduced reenactments of events from their history I’m suprised that the local LDS churches didn’t capitalize on nature’s provision of millions of unpaid extras

21. Appy Linguist - June 26, 2007

Yeah, and killing spiders is bad luck. Besides, chances are that you’ll find a spider in the same place the next day: its mate. That’s happened to me in the past, and I thought it was time to lay off the booze! Turns out it’s not an entirely uncommon phenomenon, but I can’t remember where or when I heard about it.

Frying moths really isn’t worth it – they take ages to die and they really, really stink. Besides, you end up wasting valuable fly and mosquito killing time.

Yes, my racquet has batteries in the handle. I’ve only had to change them once in almost twelve months, and that’s after some heavy-duty usage.

I bought mine when I was living in Denmark, from a Danish website. They were sold under the title ‘myggetennis’, ie ‘mosquito tennis’.

Including P&P, I think it cost 150 kroner, which is currently about 20 euros – and it was worth every penny. (Well, every øre, in fact.)

22. Valerie in San Diego - June 27, 2007

I rather like bugs, except perhaps for roaches, the result of which that it is generally my job to escort such critters (spiders too) off the premises of any friend I happen to be visiting when such monsters appear. My most recent such activity was on Sunday in front of a large audience (and, I think, webcast to thousands) — I was about to start speaking at a conference when the fellow who was speaking before me spotted a large spider and had hysterics (also on video). I’m sure the video got a nice square image of my sizable bum as I was bent over trying to get the silly thing to walk onto my conference program.

(I succeeded, and I think there’s video footage to prove it. The spider has a new home under a shrubbery.)

Anyway, if I’m ever in Berlin, I’ll let you know so you can telephone should any unwanted multi-legged vermin rear their ugly heads (or wings or toes or whatever)…

23. bye bye bellulah - June 27, 2007

Anything that doesn’t bite I can live with. I don’t react well to bites. A nun on a train outside Portofino once kised my hand and gave me a tube of something and a Rasta in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica crossed the road to hand me a half bottle of calamine lotion, both to rub on the angry red nipples that had erupted all over everywhere.
I would willingly be sheep-dipped at the start of each biting bug season. Ugh!

24. pleite - June 27, 2007

Bellulah, bad luck. I am quite a bitee in mosquito-filled areas too, though I slightly enjoy the itching and blood-letting opportunities such occasions afford. But do I not want to go anywhere malarial! Aren’t we vaguely meant to hate certain members of the green world for having that malaria-busting medicine banned on some grounds or other?

Valerie, is this footage yet available on youtube? It sounds like a good watch. I will happily make use of your bug-ridding abilities whenever you are in Berlin, but hopefully we’d be able to sit and drink and have a good natter too. It would be rude to just give you the swat as soon as you walked in the door and I like to think I am a decent host (though the Russian does rather get lumbered with all the catering responsibility while I hold forth in the living room).

Appy, oh no, the widowed spider turns up to make you feel bad. How awful. That’s why there’s that make of spider called the black widow, no doubt. Our pet spider, Jens, disappeared for ages – like two years – but has reappeared recently in the bathroom. He’s not very ambitious, geographically. Still, it’s nice to have him around. A bit of company. And he nags less than others. He’s not doing much of a job murdering the flies though, but as it’s so utterly freezing – I contemplated putting the heating on today – I think they’re mostly dropping like… um, no… dying of their own accord anyway.

Narrowback, I ate grasshoppers in Mexico and they were just as you’d expect. Utterly foul. Well, not even foul, actually. Just tasteless and textureless. It was sort of like eating soft needles. Kids used to sell you little plastic bags of them, drenched in lemon. An utterly pointless snack. I’ve got a feeling a bar in the Kulturbrauerei here sells chocolate-covered insects. Perverts.

Ed, and I never examined the menu closely enough to see if cicadas were on there. And we were too boring to try all the bugs on offer when we were in Thailand. Might they really be delicious? Are you a crocodile fan? I really should eat more things I hate, to doubly punish them for having existed in the first place. I hear croc is pretty delicious, although I know other animals – bar maggots – refuse to eat them in the wild when they’ve done the decent thing and croaked as they find the flesh repulsive. Dead or alive, I hate ’em either way.

Christina, has your mother ever regaled you with tales of Thai bug-delicacies? The Russian’s dog back in Russia used to like killing bugs in a slow, tortuous process, gradually pawing them to death. But she didn’t eat them. Flies she’d catch in her mouth mid-air, but they were spat out too. Why can’t it be prawns coming uninvited into the home instead?

25. ChristinaG - June 27, 2007

No, she hasn’t. But I have two Thai bug stories. I once walked into my grandma’s kitchen and there was a big gray hairy spider the size of a small dog sitting in the sink. I screamed. My aunt came running in, shrugged, then asked for my shoe. I fled as quickly as possible.

Another time, it was spring cleaning and the all the children were collected into the kitchen. The stove was moved in order to clean behind it and as thousands of giant Thai cockroaches poured out from behind the stove, we were instructed to stomp. The cat helped. Ah, the memories…

26. pleite - June 27, 2007

Christina, bugs and ovens… I am mentally transported back to Russia. My first pad in St. Petersburg, which was actually rather lovely, in many ways, except the kitchen ceiling was painted blue, was infested with cockroaches. In the winter mornings, when it was still pitch black till between 10 and 11, I would switch the light on first thing and then leave the kitchen for however long it took the cockroaches to disperse. But the horrid thing was switching on the oven to cook something and them all scuttling away from the heat. The absolute horror of it.

Can’t remember if spiders were also offered up as a delicacy in Thailand. You don’t mean your aunt threw it in the pot after she’d shoed it to death, do you?

27. matkr - June 28, 2007

the way they fried bugs at the street stalls of bangkok made for a tasty treat in between the malls and cinemas of downtown last time i tried… some stalls seemed to add a sorta saffron mix, which went down well, crunchy with an almost walnutty aftertaste that matched the sizzling chilli dip that came free if you asked politely ;) witchety grubs, on the other hand, are the sorta bugs that take another leap o’faith again once you see how they’re ‘harvested’…

28. pleite - June 29, 2007

Oh gosh, matkr, I don’t think I’ll ever force myself to indulge in those. Billy Connolly ate them when making some documentary about Australia. He only just managed to feign politeness to his hosts.

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