Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Postcards From Thailand - The Unbearable Lightness of Flying Things

Dear Reader,

This post is indirectly related to a previous post regarding wasps, undoubtedly my least favourite insect. My irrational fear of wasps and some of the embarrassing situations I have been placed in as a result of this fear are detailed there, to my shame

Extremely scary wasp...
Now I am passing the baton of suffering to my wife, Smiffy, whose perfectly rational fear of all things winged was laid bare during this holiday.

The root of this fear comes from a previous experience with a flying thing whilst on holiday in Goa, which is almost a post in itself but I shall paraphrase. Whilst staying in a resort in Goa we were seduced into spending a night in another hotel owned by the same person. It was slightly more expensive, but in a much more remote spot. It would be romantic, secluded, a change of scenery we said as we signed the cheque. How little did we know... the room was fine, the setting was good, all was well until we ventured out for dinner in the open-air restaurant. It was secluded but it wasn't quiet and more importantly we certainly weren't alone. Some species of insect had chosen this night to swarm, and wherever they were swarming to had a well lit restaurant right in it's path. Our restaurant.

So we arrive, to be greeted and seated by a very polite member of staff, who before seating us spends a moment brushing an insect or two off the table and the chairs we were to sit at. You do expect the occasional night-time insect in a temperate climate so we paid it no mind. As we sat down and started to read the menu it became clear that there were quite a number of these creatures flying around lamps, landing in things and generally causing a nuisance.

Having ordered, we realised that the number of creatures appeared to be increasing in noise and regularity, to the extent that waiters would regularly pass by with a broom sweeping them out off the floor of the restaurant. It should be noted that these things weren't small either, about the size of a cockroach, with wings. They did however seem to be more interested in light sources and the floor than they were in us. It wasn't the most relaxing of environments but all was largely well. Waiters delivered alcohol. Oh good, we said, once the wine starts to flow this will all seem like an amusing dream and we would wake up tomorrow and laugh about the whole thing.

Food arrives, which is lovely. I seem to remember that at some point during the starter one of these flying things took an interest in us, requiring some slightly embarrassing flailing of napkins to dissuade the beastie. A little later another beastie, takes a rather more direct and tactical route to landing than the previous assaults. The floor was not the target, neither was the food, or the table. No, this little fella had a different promised land in mind. After a momentary eye-level hover to announce his presence, he dove immediately down poor Smiffy's top!!

In all fairness she took this rather well. She didn't scream or run. She did however remove her top and bra in a crowded restaurant looking for the damn thing. OK, I may have imagined that bit. Actually, to her considerable credit she did not even leave the table, just flapped said top around a bit, did some peering about and decided the beastie was gone. Her cutlery was shaking a little after I noted. Dinner was also completed in an unusually rapid manner. We may even have left some wine.

This experience has understandably left my dear wife with a bit of a fear of flying things, regardless of breed, colour and size. Thailand, being another hot, temperate country, is full of the things, in all breeds, colours and sizes. You think we might have learned...

My fear centres around wasps, so I was enjoying myself walking around the resort, marvelling at dragonflies doing mating dances, the huge quantity of different butterfly species and many other flying joys of nature. My wifes' fear of flying things revolves around anything flying near her, period. Consequently a walk from our villa to the resort restaurant would be filled with no end of tortures for my wife. Some tactics were required...

I would walk in front, as the beasties will always attack from the front, apparently. That being said, this did not always work as dragonflies seemed to enjoy a staying on the sides of paths, a sort of a flanking manoeuvre, which would cause Smiffy to stop dead until they had passed her peripheral vision. Butterflies provided a different challenge, as they bumble about in a seemingly random, and to me, rather endearing way. This could cause all sorts of responses from Smiffy, from the aforementioned stopping dead, to running very fast (forwards or backwards), ducking, flailing arms, running sideways, crouching, jumping or any combination of the above. Evasive action would often be accompanied by small panicked shrieks.

Not so scary butterfly...
"They are just butterflies" I would say. "They could be poisonous" Smiffy replies. Not being an expert I Google it. Although some butterflies do contain toxins in their bodies that make them poisonous, the level of toxin is so small it would only cause a problem if you ingested one. I explain this, to which Smiffy responds "Well one might fly in my mouth". OK, could happen, but apparently hundreds would be required to even make a human slightly ill. I explain this as well. "Well, there you go, I was right" Smiffy replies.

A truly irrational response and utterly endearing. Also a huge boost to me because just for once I am not the one being completely terrorised and humiliated by the insect world. This would make me seem shallow, insensitive and in need of some serious ego-massaging. Guilty as charged.

More soon dear reader.


  1. Im afraid of Katydids and not afraid of spiders.. loved this blog!

  2. @Vick: Glad you loved it. I had to look up Katydids :) Found an interesting fact...

    Studies conducted in 2010 at the University of Derby by Karim Vahed, Darren Parker and James Gilbert found that the Tuberous Bushcricket (Platycleis affinis) has the largest testes in proportion to body mass of any animal recorded. They account for 14% of the insect's body mass and are thought to enable a fast re-mating rate.

    I mean, 14% of body mass, wow :)

    Don't know if this will make you see them ni a new light though xx