Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Spring brings ant army assault, amorous avians and randy pandas

Home Truths column for The Australian's Life page, in which the rites of Spring go seriously awry. 

Spring has sprung. And in the spring, a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of ant poison and how to get rid of pigeons practising the kama sutra on the balcony. 
     Sorry, Lord Alfred Tennyson, but love is on the back-burner for now. My rites of spring began one morning last week, as I slowly stirred from my slumbers to become aware the floor was moving. “Ah that’s nice,” I thought, as i stretched luxuriantly and rolled over. Seconds later, I bolted upright, all thoughts of somnolence banished. I fumble for my glasses and the scene becomes clear. The floor isn’t actually moving, of course, but a motorised column of fat shiny and rather large black ants was streaming in from my bathroom, hup-two-three-ing around my bedroom and goose-stepping somewhere under my sofa. Somewhere in the column a barrel-chested sergeant-major ant was no doubt shouting: “I don’t know what you’ve been told. The best stale crumbs come with some mould.”
     Now, for a single fellow living alone, I thought I had been doing a creditable job of keeping my flat spic and span. But I’d clearly forgotten to clean under the sofa, and as I dragged it aside, the full horror was revealed. 
     Flakes of parmesan cheese, flecks of cold cuts, mouldy sultanas, pizza crust, random elements of myriad mueslis, slivers of chocolate and an Arnott’s Family Assortment of biscuit remnants, all served up with a light dusting of, er, dust. OK, a heavy dusting. A Watership Down of dust bunnies. But it doesn’t deter the ants from their 10-course tasting menu, and I briefly ponder scattering a few blobs of lemon sorbet on the floor as a palate cleanser. Word has clearly got out about this Formicidae smorgasbord south of my couch. I grab my iPad and find Rentokil’s site, where I ascertain they are almost certainly common black ants, famous kitchen scavengers also partial to some dog excrement and effective spreaders of salmonella. 
     As I read, they keep streaming in like there’s no tomorrow. Nor will there be. I’ve got nothing against the humble ant, as long as he stays in the garden, doing his invaluable ecosystem thing, returning everything back to ant poo. Come into my home, possibly covered in dog poo, to get all up in my shizness, and the gloves come off.  An invasion of this scale demanded a thermonuclear DEFCON4 scorched earth response, a blast of borax to the thorax, or something similarly noxious to Pink Panther the little blighters for good. Off to the corner store I trotted, returning armed with baits with complicated instructions (in Japanese only),  floor cleaner and some spray in case all else failed. 
    Two hours later, I have squished countless ants along the trail so the stench of fallen comrades will say “Abandon hope all ye who enter”. This strategy is compromised by my frantic mopping of the floor half a dozen times, replacing the dead ant tang with a forest fresh pine scent. I deploy the baits and resist the choking final solution of the aerosol. 
     The very next morning, I stir from sleep to hear a strange feathery shuffling sound in my bedroom. I had left the door to the balcony open to pick up some breeze. Instead I have a pigeon playa and his chick getting pige-y with it in my bedroom. And not just once, either. 
     A skewed deja vu sets in as I leap out of bed, waving my arms like a lunatic and screaming. The birds are gone in a flap of oily wings when I have a big idea. 
     I grab my K-mart pressed metal life-sized sulphur crested cockatoo ornament off the mantlepiece and perch it on the balcony at a menacing angle. Slightly bigger than life size, it does the trick and the pigeons do not return.
    I have faced worse beginnings to spring. My first year in Thailand, I suffered through an eruption of cockroaches like the scarab scene in The Mummy, a bristling red plague of ticks that covered my walls, and then a sneak attack by termites, who ascended to a second floor bookshelf and chomped through most of my vinyl record collection’s cardboard sleeves, all within the space of a few soul-scarring weeks. 
     The irrefutable proof that spring is here, however, is not daylight saving or the chirp of birds, but the publication of the season’s first randy panda story. In any case, spring is most definitely in the air, and right on cue comes the season’s first randy panda story. Right on cue, Adelaide Zoo’s star panda pair are getting ready to do the wild thing. Pandas are not nature’s porn stars, however; they rarely mate in captivity, can’t sign in to Tinder, and regard ‘eats, shoots and leaves’ as a dietary requirement not a notch on the cubbing den’s bedpost.  
     Male pandas are known for their relatively small penises, so one wonders what heartless handler would have come up with a name like Wang Wang, who as I write is doing handstands to pee higher into the bamboo the better to impress his putative panda mate, Fu Ni, who is bleating, chirping and indulging in water play, all good signs.  

       In the spring, a young panda’s fancy lightly turns to the pissing contest known as love. 

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