National Obsessions…Just Storms in a Teacup.

In England it’s the weather… the national obsession that it.

‘You can feel a nip in the air’

‘But what a wonderful summer we’ve had’.

‘Can’t believe it’s almost November.’

‘Had to turn the heating on last night mind.’

‘Did you hear that rain?’

‘They say we’re in for a hard winter.’

And so it goes on. Too hot, too cold, too many leaves on the line, too much rain, not enough rain, not the right rain (this from farmers), not the right leaves (the rail companies).
The weather is a subject we never tire of. It’s polite and it rarely raises passions (commuters are remarkably stoic even when faced day after day of delays).

I’m sure every country has its obsessions. Here in SE Asia, which is not all blue skies, warm seas and pristine beaches by the way – not in the wet season, the national obsession appears to be insects or more precisely the effects of insects. Whether they be mosquitoes, ants, spiders, nits or fleas they are the enemy and the battle to contain them is constant; sometimes shared, sometimes a personal journey. The fascination with the war wounds they inflict is never diminished, rarely discussed but forever on your mind.

After breakfast most of the women in the families will groom their children. Not in the ugly way that we now consider grooming (although I fear that is a different subject that still needs addressing) but rather as a tribe of primates, meticulously picking through hair for nits and dabbing bright red potions onto fresh lumps and bumps.

Rarely does one see a body that has not been attacked, where the enemy has not left its mark, where skin still looks unblemished…even the most cellulite free, bikini clad, toned body bears the scars.

Assiduously tending to my own crop, while swatting away would be marauders, I marvel at the different stages of their development. The ‘overnights ‘ red and itchy, the ‘two day olds’ water filled and beseeching to be ‘popped’, the ‘popped ‘four day olds’ now crusted, temptingly crusted – you know that removing the crust will cause more liquid to spill out and dribble down the leg or arm affected and form a new crust but you have to do it anyway. The ‘ten day olds’, now just blood coloured dark scabs waiting to drop off…hardly worth your interest, yet you pick at them still.

No amount of toxic room spray, anti histamine, Betadine or, when they eventually turn septic, antibiotics, can stop the onslaught… like the weather they will always throw something else at you.

I look up from my scab picking to see two divers come ashore dragging a third diver….A CORPSE! After last week’s corpse incident and the bird being caught by the cat, I do exactly as Chai advised…I look.

I don’t run down the beach to offer my non existent first aid skills or rush to a phone to call an ambulance…I look – stunned.

I look as one of the divers attempts mouth to mouth. Finally I call Chai and Ali.

“We must do something!”

Ali peers down the beach, Chai shrugs his shoulders and continues scratching his bites.

The divers put the corpse into the recovery position, he is motionless, no coughing of water, no spluttering, no sign of life at all.

“Ali we have to help…shouldn’t we call someone?”

Ali looks.

“Aren’t you going to do anything?!!!” (This from the woman who ‘looks’)

“It’s fine Mama, only practice…not dead.”

At this point the ‘corpse’ picks himself up, shakes hands with his two companions, gives Ali a thumbs up sign and heads down the beach.

We return to our bites. The sun comes out from behind the clouds. A bit like a storm, once over it’s soon forgotten.


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