Our dad used to work for the Elder Dempster shipping line in Liverpool, where,. if I remember rightly, and perhaps my sister Merrylegs can correct me on this, he held the post of Assistant Chief Victualling Superintendent, responsible for food, drink, carpets and curtains and the training of the stewards on board ships like the Oreol, the company flagship, the Apapa and the Accra (http://www.elderdempster.org/ for anyone interested in shipping history; the company closed in 1985).
The boats plied between the Liverpool docks and West Africa and I well remember Dad bringing home, on different occasions, coconuts which he bashed with a hammer to break into them, pouring out the milk which was peppered with bits of broken hairy shell), sackfuls of peanuts still in the shell, and on one wondrous occasion a bright green Praying Mantis, which scuttled up the living room curtains and lived there for a while, before starving to death, poor thing, because we didn't have a clue how to feed it and just hoped it could catch enough spiders and flies.
Amongst the treasures brought home by Dad was the occasional flea. At the first sign of any of being bitten, the Hunt the Flea ritual would commence. It involved filling the bath tub with a few inches of water then going into the bathroom one at a time, stripping off each garment in turn and shaking it over the tub, until the flea appeared, swimming for its life. It would then be dispatched to a watery grave down the plughole.
These were human fleas, black, round and shiny, not like the reddish cat flea. The cat flea is a cunning b*****d. It lurks in soft furnishings, carpets and crevices in wooden floors, having hatched from eggs that fell off the cat when the next flea treatment was slightly overdue, and multiplies at a rate of squillions squared. In terms of cars, the population can go from 0 to 50 in a millisecond, beating the fastest Formula 5 racer. And they are in my bedroom... and the spare room... and the kitchen... and despite my daily sprayings and vacuumings, they still hop on my feet the moment I get out of bed in the morning.
I have now bought some flea bombs. You let them off in a room, close the door and flee for three hours. Apparently they smell like moth balls. So if that 'old lady' smell reaches your nostrils over the next few days, look around and you might spot me. And hopefully the spots left by the flea bites will have gone!
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