On leaving lepidoptera….*
I am with bite. Yes, I know. Hardly an earth-shattering news item. But, trust me, this has so far been the story of our holiday. And not least because of the furore surrounding the identity of its perpetrator, who, naturally enough, has long since left the building. Or, indeed, hire car footwell, or terrace, or table at Mr Noodles, or last table on the left, just adjacent to the Epping Massive, in Slainte Irish Bar on Avenida Gladioli. (Such is the way of things when your flight lands at midnight. You have no choice but to cut your cloth accordingly.)
There was, naturally, little fuss on my part. Not originally. I woke up the following morning with a slightly tender heel and, echoing the clarion call of holidaymakers everywhere, said “**** I’ve been bitten!”. Followed by, “why do I always forget about the bloody mozzie cream till it’s too late?” Honestly, it’s so reliable that you could set your watch by it.
The day commenced as per. Got some food in. Hired some bikes. Applied sun cream. Headed to the beach. And I didn’t fuss, even though it hurt. I never fuss. I’m not a fusser. But by early afternoon the tender heel was fast becoming a serious annoyance. So I took a proper look at it, and then I did fuss, because it looked like it had increasingly begun to feel. Like a series of small incendiary devices had been secreted just beneath my epidermis, operated remotely, and over-enthusiastically, by a leprechaun of little intellect, on minimum wage.
“Don’t keep fussing,” said Pete. (I was doing a lot of it by this time.) “It’s just a mozzie bite. Welcome to my world.” (Pete is to mosquitos as black truffles are to epicurean Gallic pigs. I have sympathized a LOT over the years.)
“Do I fuss?” I spluttered crossly. “Do I ever fuss? Have I ever been a fusser? If I fuss, let me tell you, it’s because there is something to fuss about! Look at my foot! It is being eaten from within!”
So we all cycled home – up a challenging hill or five (in my case, painfully) – where some proper professional looking then ensued. Then the ‘poke’ test – he poked it, and I screamed the place down – followed by some consternation that the state of my foot (which was now getting irksome even to walk on) was quickly changing.
It was now hot to touch, swollen, livid and locally haemorrhaging – the harbinger, in fact, of that most ennervating of holiday hell-fests; the possibility of having to attend the local emergency walk in clinic, there to while away many a merry hour being misunderstood.
‘Now we’re talking!’ I couldn’t help but think, despite the agony. I was finally at the epicentre of the bitten-to-buggery universe, and I was milking it for all it was worth. After years of being saddled with the knowledge that bitey things didn’t like me (a curiously FOMO kind of thing with me) I had a bite like no bite that had ever troubled the family. And with the spectre of it perhaps even getting worse.
“It looks infected, too,” said Pete.” We’ll have to keep a close eye on it. Could get nasty.” My emergency stash of antibiotics were duly administered, right away. But it still didn’t look like anything any of us had seen before.
“I reckon that’s a spider bite,” said our resident globe-trotting nature girl, Georgie. “A girl I was travelling with in Thailand got bitten by a spider and it looked exactly like that.”
And needless to say (we’re on holiday, in a hot place, the imagination tends to wander) – the idea of attack by unknown arachnid took root. It looked nothing like a mosquito bite after all. And isn’t that the miracle of the internet? I typed in ‘bruised swollen painful ankle red bite?’ and did an image search.
And as quick as you could say ‘help! There’s a Tarantula!’, up came the results. And forget mozzie. I had fetched up at eepy-eepy central. And it looked EVERYthing like a bite from the jaws of a spider. Which I hadn’t felt, much less seen, so which one?
Another search, then. Of the spiders of Spain. And it turns out that there are two possible species in the frame. The Brown Recluse (so Brown and reclusive they named it, um, Brown Recluse) and, oh, lordy lord, the Black Widow. Could it be true? Had I been touched by the kiss of the spider woman? Rubbish film, yes, but, oh my, watch this space…
(*which we didn’t. Lots of them in Spain too. Just a nod to my fellow Alice Cooper fans, who will get this :))
First published in The Western Mail Weekend magazine, 17th Sept 2016