Thursday, October 17, 2013

Battling intrinsic evil

Living in an ordinary semi-detached house in an ordinary newish estate in Dublin 15, intrinsic evil is not something we come up against on a daily basis. We do not have poltergeists chasing us down the stairs, nor axe murderers lurking around the wheelie bins, nor blood-sucking bats tapping on our double-glazing which, frankly, is no bad thing, as we don’t want the house prices to go down even further.
Of course, intrinsic evil (as opposed to any other kind) does not really exist outside of the horror movie genre, except in two forms – dentists and wasps.
No child ever grows up wanting to become a dentist. Psychologists suspect that medical students messing about with ouija boards inadvertently summon up the Devil who inserts into their brains the notion that they want to become dentists, and presto, another legalised sadist is created.
But for all their malevolence, the dentist tends not to bother you too much unless you are somehow brainwashed into visiting him in his surgery. In the thirty five years since leaving school, I finally summonsed up the courage to confront this man/beast about five years ago after a particular nasty abcess, thinking that the instruments of torture must surely have been refined during the intervening years. They hadn’t and consequently I will go to my grave with the stumps of my teeth rotting in my gums before making the same mistake again.
Wasps however are another kettle of insects entirely. In all of Christendom, there is no creature as nasty and this time of year they appear to be out in force to kill off any feelgood factor you might accidentally have picked up.
One of the few pleasures that we have is sitting outside on warm summer mornings and eating our breakfast on the wide bit of path outside the back door that we laughingly call a patio. This is an all too rare occurrence as sunny mornings tend not to coincide with my days off work, so when it does happen, it is a joyous occasion. A joyous occasion, that is, until a nasty black and yellow insect comes buzzing over the garden fence intent on spoiling our breakfast. Doesn’t matter if you’re eating fruit or Coco Pops or scrambled egg, he’ll come over and stick his big ugly snout in your airspace until you notice him and spring up wildly, threshing about like a demented windmill.
What I can’t figure out is how he seems to be able to smell a breakfast from two hundred yards. There could be juicy apples fermenting on trees or lovely nappies protruding from the wheelie bin down the road but produce a bowl of Krispies and he’s over like a shot, even though he’d never order it in a restaurant. Obviously it isn’t the food he’s interested in, per se, merely the ruination of your enjoyment of it.
Seemingly, they like garden sheds as well, though Lord knows, there’s not much nourishment in them. A few years ago they even started building a nest in our old shed, which I bravely sent crashing down with a rake before running away as fast as my short fat legs could carry me.
A few weeks ago, we had to get a new shed, as the old one was on its last struts. Two minutes after the new one was erected, there were four of them buzzing around it like potential house buyers, examining the joints and the felt roof. Only after emptying a half a can of Raid into the shed was I able to get in there myself.
Another thing they seem to like is carpets. We had Des Kelly coming to put a new carpet in the bedroom (not himself apparently, but a couple of lads who work for his company) and I got a nice dry day to roll out the old carpet on the grass to cut it up into small squares for easier disposal. No sooner had I started than a wasp started buzzing around my ear, obviously jeering me in wasp language because I was using a stanley knife that hadn’t seen a new blade since 1985. Even when I turned suddenly and threatened him with the aforementioned knife, he simply laughed and breezed away, returning with his waspish taunts as soon as I had got back to work.
Many years ago, when I was still in short pants (in my early thirties) my grandfather taught me how to kill wasps by the simple means of slapping them with my bare palm. They won’t sting you, he explained, because they won’t have their stingers out. But if you don’t kill them first time, don’t try and slap him again.
Of course, I tried and it worked and I duly became a minor celebrity in my primary school for my death-defying bravery in killing wasps with my bare hands. If I’d have been older, I could have walked around with a girl on either arm but at age seven, all girls smell. When asked how I did it, I simply said there was a knack to it, in case some other young punk tried to steal my thunder.
The problem nowadays is that wasps have got smarter. Oh I don’t mean they’re able to compose concertos or retrieve Dunnes trolleys with a euro coin without trying to push the coin in with another coin. No, they seem to have mastered the art of hovering. You can only slap a wasp to death if they actually land on a hard surface that your wife doesn’t object to ending up covered in wasp blood. If he simply flies around you, no amount of slapping will have any effect except maybe to add to his enjoyment of your rising frustration.
And now, in addition to your normal, nasty, head-and-torso wasp, you have these new guys who look like wasps but aren’t quite the real deal. They are more single-bodied and slightly transparent but if you suddenly find one landing on your glasses, you don’t stop to find out if its real or an impostor. They’re probably hornets but everybody says that about wasp-like creatures and I’m sure nobody really knows what a hornet looks like.
The other day we had three of these things in the kitchen and one in the sitting room and after I’d finished hooshing them out with a tea towel (their only natural enemy), I went upstairs to find a real wasp crawling around the inside of the bathroom window. I felt like Dustin Hoffman in Straw Dogs going around and bolting all the windows and doors against the evil outside. Unfortunately, the bathroom wasp flew away before I had time to get into position to slap him into oblivion.
The only good thing about this wasp epidemic is that you know, with our weather, that it won’t last. And then, in return for enduring abysmal weather for eight months, at least you get them wasp-free, demonstrating yet again that in front of every silver lining, there’s a dark cloud.

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