Friday 18 June 2010

Hints on Things Best Avoided

A Cautionary Tale from my little sister, LTLS


LTLS really had no intention of ghosting in HTLT again so soon, but events (and siblings) have conspired against her. Due to recent sad events, she has the following hint for Official Hints Day:

‘Don’t let the bed bugs bite. No. Really. Don’t. Otherwise you will be very sorry.’

Returning from Morocco, I brought home many presents: painted pottery from Fes, leather babouches from Rabat, a tagine from Marrakech. And bedbugs: yes, friends, despite my flatmate’s conviction that bedbugs are fictional, they pose a very real threat to Lady (and gentlemen) travellers.

LTLS is an archaeologist, a member of a proud, strong-willed and friendly race. Unfortunately it is also a race that is ever teetering on the brink of penury (from which her kind parents occasionally pull her back. See below). So when LTLS and LTLSBF (you can work that one out) travelled around Morocco for a week, seeking to economise, they did not stay in the most salubrious of establishments. This was a mistake. We thought the squat toilets were the worst of our worries, but when we got back to our respective houses earlier this week, after a brief discussion, it was realised that the strange bites on our bodies (they don’t look at all like mosquito bites, but a bit like pink warts. Nice.) which had mysteriously appeared (bedbug bites may not become apparent until nine days after impact) were in fact bedbug bites. Having travelled in India, LTLSBF has experience of these things. To be honest, if you’re staying somewhere that has bed bugs, it’s hard to know how you could avoid contracting them - your best bet is to stay well covered at night, but even then, you could easily carry the buggers back in your clothing (like me). Wikipedia says to look out for the tell tale signs of little squashed brown bodies on the sheets, but if you’re not paying attention, you could easily be unlucky. Then again, if you’re staying somewhere that has strange brown stains on the furnishings for any reason, it might be wise to rethink your holidaying priorities. I certainly have.

Here began the onset of acute paranoia. Extermination firms were called, surveyors dispatched to estimate the extent of the infestation (eeew). Bedbugs, it turns out, are tenacious house guests. It can take up to 6 weeks to remove them fully from the property, and while treatment is being carried out, every wardrobe and drawer in the house must be emptied of clothing and soft things, the contents put into plastic bags. The contents cannot be put back into the wardrobes and drawers until the treatment is complete. Then, everything that can be washed at 55-65 degrees Celsius must be washed. Anything that can’t be washed must be dry-cleaned. Anything that can’t be dry-cleaned must be thrown out. All of my belongings are currently in bin bags in the front garden, and my dreams at the moment take their inspiration from the end of The Velveteen Rabbit, but on a more apocalyptic scale.

The whole process is also extremely expensive (this is where the very nice parental bodies step in), stressful, and unlikely to engender feelings of love in one’s flatmates (especially if they get bitten). Avoid.


Hints to Lady Travellers adds: Between LTLS sending me her sad story this morning and me getting home, some good news arrived from the front (courtesy of the man from Following his inspection today, it seems that earlier reports (courtesy of the man from the opposition fumigators) were greatly exaggerated and Lui's flat was not, in fact, hosting bedbugs. And the bites? Hard to say. Still, as our mother points out, this has been a valuable lesson for all would-be travellers and counsels us all to bring plastic bags to wrap our belongings in when staying in accommodation that looks anyway less than pristine.

Happy endings are the best.

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