Monday, 7 December 2009

Why I would never move to Singapore

La cucaracha, la cucaracha,
ya no puede caminar
porque no tiene, porque le falta
las dos patitas de atrás.

Back in Baku, I lived on the 5th floor of an old building. Below us, on the 4th floor, there was a mad, but reasonably clean family. However, the family above was filthy. I know that because I often shared lift rides with the woman and her smelly rubbish bins.

For many years we had an ongoing battle with cockroaches. Every time the filthy neighbour would finally spray some anti-cockroach stuff, they ran down the drainpipes- right into our flat.

Fortunately, I have not seen cockroaches in the UK. Not the fat, glossy black type I am talking about. OK, I once noticed a cockroach at work, but it looked tiny and pathetic compared to those in Baku.

During the university years I would spend nights working on a project. I sat in the kitchen, under a bright pull-down lamp, carefully drawing endless lines with black ink on an A1 size board. And, as the night fell, they came out to play on the kitchen floor. I once witnessed something that could have been a cute picture, should the actors have been say, cats. Or dogs. Or any other animals- as long as on no more than four legs. It was a family having a nice time. There was the hugest, fattest and glossiest daddy cockroach, a slightly smaller mommy, and a couple of little baby roaches. Babies played close to the mother, while daddy searched for food.

I could never kill those black cockroaches the way my father did- by stepping on them. They were way too big and made that nasty popping-cracking noise. So I used my own method. Not anyhow more humane, yet effective. I would boil a kettle and just splash the bastards. That night, I murdered the whole happy little family.

The filthy neighbours eventually immigrated, and an Indian family moved in.
Whether they are too hygienic, or their food is just too spicy for Azeri cockroaches, but my mother has been enjoying a cockroach-free life for a few years now. And I have not seen any more of them for years, either here, in the UK, or back home. Yet, wherever I am, I always glance down as I walk into a bathroom at night. You just never know what might be running under your feet when you switch the light on.

On a trip to Singapore, a friend of ours was telling us we should move there for a while. Just think- she said- you could have a housekeeper… your life would be so easy here

Hmmm...- I thought-…tempting, very tempting.

However, at a dinner that night, she told us about cockroaches in Singapore. They sounded terribly similar to my childhood friends. Only bigger. Most importantly, they could FLY. If there is one thing that is worse than a big fat black cockroach, it is a big fat flying cockroach. So, I decided to stay in the UK. As far as nasty insects are concerned, this country is not that bad. At first, I thought British homes were completely creature-free. I was naive, of course.

Because, in British homes, we get spiders.

Allegedly, the huge ones we see in our houses are the male spiders. They normally live outside, but come in the homes by accident- desperately looking for a girlfriend. Boys, eh.

Husband likes spiders. Should he come to rescue me from one (or the other way around), he would try to catch it in a glass and set it free. He also thinks my fear of them is pathetic. And these days, after many years and after many, many spiders, I normally cope OK. Especially since I discovered that even the biggest ones do not make any noise when you squash them.

However, there was that one morning I had to wake husband up.

He was not very happy; it was too early and he was deeply asleep. He mentioned how attractive he finds independence in women. How tired and sleepy he was. And many, many other things. As he stumbled into the bathroom, half asleep, he crouched down next to the bath, and stared at the spider. The spider stared back.

Finally, husband spoke.
This is the biggest fucking spider I have seen in my entire life.
- - he admitted thoughtfully. And then tried to wash it down the drain. Like that was going to work. I get paid for planning things to fit into spaces. I knew the spider was way too big. As the water pushed him down, we could see his long hairy legs grab hold of the edges, pulling himself back out- in a fast and furious fashion.

In the end, husband had to butcher the guy with my foot file.

Still, it is winter now, and there are no spiders, flies or wasps in my lovely home. Just a large smelly dog snoring next to me. But that is quite different.


  1. I can confirm your cockroach fears as I have seen the hell of it. A flying cockroach attacked me in the shower when I was in Singapore. While I was nude - defenseless against this shiny-shelled, multi-legged, black aeronaut with a payload of billions of bacteria and a sidecar of bad attitude.

    I have never been the same since.

  2. hahaha! Splashing the cockroaches instead of stepping on them is soo girly!!!I would never step on those thingies either ...imagine them moving under your feet YIKES! My insect killing method is spraying them with deodorant, it works with bugs but I guess it would never work with a fat cockroach -__-

    The drawing of three cockroaches walking side by side is so cute :D

  3. Back in the 80's one of my big, black, plastic earrings rolled across the floor and a helpful friend stamped on it because he thought it was a cockroach. It was dead alright.

  4. Tricia/Laszlo- Laughed at your stories. :)

  5. Yes well, in 1994 in Pechora a lovely little gulag town in the Komi Republic of Russia I lived in an apartment above a small gocery store (I use grocery with a little humour usually all the had was canned peas, garlic, cheap vodka and a concoction they called beer but was 11% alchol so it sold well. In the winter when all the people left the cockroached used to migrate up to my apartment by the hundreds. I started putting down roach powder along all the walls before I went to bed at night. That idea sucked because when you walked to the bathroom in the middle of the nigh it sounded like you were walking on corn flakes. The final solution was to take a roll of duct tape wrap itagainst the wall and fold it over with about 2 inches of the sticky side up. In the morning they would all be looking at you as they tried to peel themselves free. Then you just un peel the tape and drop it ou the windo into the garbage can at -40 I am sure it killed at least half of them.

    Ask Husband about the frozen cockroach races in Siberia it was great enterainment.

  6. My sister fears cockroaches. Instead, I always step on them, proudly.
    You've made me think about that summer night when my brother and I tried to kill a cockroach by splashing it. It proved to be a useless method! Until I told him: "how fools can we be? This is the only being that will survive a nuclear catastrophe... and we want to kill it by using water!!!
    But the flying ones, they are so disgusting!
    I love your snow flakes, SA.

  7. I love your story about the cockroach family! Ha-ha-ha
    By the way huge flying cockroach has nothing to do with dirty house. They actually live outside and sometimes just come to visit you!

  8. Spiders are amazing things. They can stand still for days then, suddenly, if disturbed, spring into action without any sign of stiffness. But I guess that's why you find them scary, Scary.

    I've never been exposed to any cockroaches but, from everything I've heard, I know I'd hate them. They have some in the Glasgow Science Museum and kids love letting them crawl over their hands.

    Kids scare me.

  9. Gabriela: It did NOT work? What sort of cockroaches do you guys have, steel-coated? :) I bet your water was just not hot enough. It has to be boiling. :) The same principle as for a lobster. Wish I'd never said that actually. I used to love a lobster.

  10. @Bill: Is it what the photo on your blog was from? I might have a nightmare about that tonight.
    Do I have to allow my child to hold a cockroach in a science museum then? She is already playing with worms in the garden, and I barely cope with that. But that thing in the photo is just too much. And it looks like it is about to take off.

  11. Well... actually, we were using tap water, cold water.

  12. Ha-ha, Scary, come to Australia, that is where BIG SPIDERS live:)I suck them with the vacuum cleaner.

  13. I thought I'd lost the More please checkbox. Hate cockroaches, love your posts.

  14. Ha ha ha! Very funny spider story. I can't bear them. I once pulled back the bedclothes to find a massive one waiting in bed for me! Have to check the bed every time now. And husband was once bitten on the toe by one that had crawled into his shoe! Have to check shoes now!

    I guess there are undesirable creatures in every country - you choose the lesser of the evils.

  15. Flying cockroaches? Eeeeeeyuuueeew.

    Mind you, spiders. Eeeeeeeyuuueeew.

    Love the snowflakes.

  16. @WM: OF COURSE you have to check inside your shoes! :)

  17. In Sydney wher I live, the spiders are big. But the ones you really nee dtolook ot ofr, the poisoness ones, are small with little red dots on their backs, or little black ones that pop out of a hole.. the smaller and darker the nastier. We also have large nasty looking cockroaches that are very hard to keep out of our homes. Having cockroaches is not so much a matter of not being clean rather a sign of your location in Syndey.

  18. I really detest spiders. There are huge spiders in my in-laws house in the Philippines on a regular basis. I think they're called cane spiders. From side to side and front to back (counting their legs) they could hug a grown man's hand. They're also aggressive when cornered. On our last trip we found three of them in the bedroom and adjoining bathroom. I hate those damn things, and it must have been quite a sight to see me dancing madly back and forth, wielding a toilet plunger as a weapon while my wife laughed at me.

    If you're interested, here's a pic of the spider in question hosted on Picasa:

  19. should come to Australia..bigg fling cockroaches, fat spiders...these guys are called lovely PETS by natives..:-)

    Scary Azeri I really enjoy your blog and look forward to your next posting..Teshekkur and congratulations!