I just could not have prepared myself for the sheer magnetic attraction I seem to have for the blood-sucking residents of Florida. I look like a human pincushion with red dots and bumps littering my body, and I just don’t understand why.
Back in the UK I have never been the member of my family who was nibbled by insects. When we took a family holiday to Scotland to both rejoice in the splendor of nature, as well as to do a tour of duty to acknowledge the McDonald blood that flows through our veins (from my Dads side of the family, The Mothership is a little more exotic in origin), we stayed for a few nights in our squished little caravan at a campsite on the shore of Loch Lomond, an absolute beast of a lake strung with multiple islands and inspiring the travel writer Henry V Morton to write, “What a large part of Loch Lomond’s beauty is due to its islands, those beautiful green tangled islands, that lie like jewels upon its surface.“
We were also completely enchanted with the natural beauty and majesty that the Loch possessed, and went for lots of long walks in the area surrounding it whenever we could, until the afternoon that we decided, for the first time, to take a walk actually along the shore itself. While walking along the shore, our tramping boots disturbed a black cloud of midges which surrounded us in an annoyed swarm. Now I’m not sure how many of you have a Christian connection, but you may recall the story of Moses and the Red Sea. When I walked through that flying blanket of midges it was as if Moses had parted the waters: they drew aside for me to pass, neither trying to fly up my nose or to alight on my skin. The Mothership, however, was experiencing something that the nature channel refers to as ‘A Feeding Frenzy’ and was a dark cloud of overjoyed, feasting bugs. She was a miserable and nibbled wreck for the next couple of days, and from that day onwards we took a lot more care when deciding where to ramble.
As I grew up I never had to worry about insect bites as I just didn’t seem to get them. I remember sitting with my brother in a hotel in Bournemouth, watching a small, whining insect making it’s way towards us, completely fascinated by the lottery of selection. We both kept our arms steady, and observed the insect make a beeline for him and take a drink, completely snubbing me as it passed.
I remember The Mothership coming in from the garden, worriedly concerned about how her arm was ballooning in size, until we checked her all over and discovered that she had been bitten by something nasty, and we hurriedly sent her to the Doctors to get a heavy duty antihistamine. Twice more she was bitten by big bugs, once a horsefly and another time by a buzzing Godzilla, and in both cases despite our keeping antihistamines in the house she had a nasty and scary reaction to the bites, and took quite a long time to deflate.
So growing up in this environment of insect invincibility, I never really had to worry about or plan for being the main course at a bug feast, therefore when planning my trip to America I packed all the predictable things I would not be able to get for a few months like paracetamol, chocolate, cheddar cheese and my beloved sunburn salve Sudocrem; however at no point did I think to pack bug repellent or any sort of chemical defence involved in the war on insects.
Within 24-hours of landing in Jacksonville, without being allowed to enjoy even one day of my holiday without being molested, I discovered a large and incredibly itchy bump on my calf. Now, if you know me you’ll know that I am a little on the curvy side, therefore I honestly must look delicious to all carnivore inhabitants of the animal and insect kingdom. I scratched the itch, which turned from annoyingly itchy into a burning patch of irritated, inflamed skin. I couldn’t stop itching it, I was physically unable to leave it alone, I woke in the night to find that I was jabbing at it with my other foot. And it wasn’t the only bite, and my legs and arms became a patchwork of pain.
The big problem with American mosquitoes is that they are unlike the biting insects, the gnats and the thingymajigs that I’m used to in Blighty in that they make no sound. Absolutely no noise: no whining, no droning, no high-pitched hum, nothing. How do you defend yourself against something you can’t hear and can barely see? I can’t bend myself into weird shapes and keep an eye on my entire body for the whole day, which means sacrifices will need to be made and I simply have to endure the bites and suppress my burning desire to itch them.
It’s been under a month since I came out to Florida, and I’d like to think I’m exhibiting self control and restraint and that I’m suppressed my desire to claw at every bite. I’m using bug repellent with varying levels of success depending on the time of day, and my beloved Sudocrem is proving to be a soothing, cooling salve at night.
I went for a walk with friends, arm in arm with my favourite man in the world, and every so often I’d twitch and slap at some sharp pain on my arm, whether imagined or real but definitely fueled by my paranoia about being eaten alive. I annoyed my favourite man in the world as he reassured me that the time of day was all wrong for mosquitoes, there was no way they could be biting me and I was just being highly strung. Even as I watched a little winged agent of appetite settle on my deliciously chubby arm and take a bite, I was being assured that it couldn’t be a mosquito and to just enjoy the walk.
I got fed up of the annoying pinpricks of pain, and also fed up of my disbelieving companions and so, despite the heat and sun, put on the long sleeved cardigan that I had wrapped around my waist knowing that I was about to cook, but preferring the sweltering heat to being eaten alive. It was worth it. Within a few seconds my friends were slapping their arms and legs, suddenly bothered by dozens of little loving nibbles. It would appear that I had been a bug magnet for the majority of the walk and the reason that everyone else having a peaceful, undisturbed hike, and so with the choice of sweet undefiled British flesh no longer being on the menu, the blood sucking fiends turned their attention back to their usual American meal options.
Which brings us to today.
Although I was aware of the repeated bites and nibbles on my skin, even I was unprepared for the state of my ravaged body as I took a shower this morning. My back, where it was not covered by my top, is a mass of red welts, my arms are covered in bumps, but thankfully I wore long legged trousers and so spared myself the complete mosquito experience. They even bit my neck and my cheek (face), my beloved chubby cheek, so I have some angry looking bumps on my face and neck to add to my collection.
I will not itch.
I must not itch.
I really, really want to itch.
However, I won’t itch.
Well, maybe just one.
Ok, definitely no more itching.
Sod this, I’m going to cover each bite in Sudocrem, and will then check my room for blood suckers before attempting to sleep as comfortably as possibly on a mass of bites.
Methinks no holiday photos this week.