Tuesday, May 09, 2006


This fella jumped 'pat!' onto our bug screen last weekend. Habibi and I like geckos. I think they're such improbable creatures - translucent slivers of not-very-much, surviving in impossible conditions.

So there he was, with his perfect toes and that kink in his tail, out on our balcony. He's not the only unexpected guest, either. Lately we've had mosquitos staying for dinner when we've not been looking. The gecko is much more welcome, especially if he has a taste for mozzie al dente.

Having met our fair share of mosquitos out here, both the usual beige ones, and the vicious, acid-filled monsters with the black stripe down their backs, which we encountered when we lived near the old fishing village in Umm Suqeim/Um Sugeim/Um Sugaim/Umma Squim (Not kidding - Habibi always meant to photograph all the different versions on shops and public buildings, but you know how it is.) we've also bought our fair share of mozzie repellent.

I hate the stuff. I'm quite sure it kills them, but I'm pretty certain it doesn't do me much good either. And I don't know which is worse, the unperfumed versions (pure poison) or the perfumed ones, which put me in mind of old-fashioned murder mysteries: what is that residue in my coffee cup? the odd taint to my tea? this carved ivory handle half-buried in my chest? Actually, I prefer my poison straight, and in a killer-plug as far away from the bed as possible.

But here's an odd thing. For long enough, Jebel Ali Gardens seemed to be a no-mo zone. Winter came, twice, and no mozzies. OK! It took me a while to connect this with the occasional perambulations of the pest control special effects pick-up. I used to see it in the early mornings when I walked down to my friend's apartment before work; a pick-up with some kind of diabolical samovar on the back, brewing beautiful deadly white clouds that rolled across road and path in its wake. It's ok if you don't inhale - within a five hundred meter radius for about an hour afterwards. Sheeeesssssssshhhhhhh!

I was pretty sure that no cockroach would survive it, but it seems that that also goes for the mosquito eggs and larvae which should by rights be flourishing in our lavishly irrigated lawns and gardens. This was all fine by me, except that pesticides aren't exactly selective, so what else had been exterminated from our modest local food chain?

It was a relief to see so many sparrers, bulbuls and mourning doves about the place - hundreds of 'em - and regular trios of rowdy green parrots, occasional visiting hoopoe pairs, and - twice now - gorgeous blue humming birds or bee-eaters (I'm not sure. Does anyone know?). And the weekend before last, I saw a desert partridge in the shrubbery surrounding an electricity substation. I followed it round and round with my camera on extreme close-up, but after my third circuit after a buff coloured bird power-walking on buff coloured sand through buff-coloured dried-up undergrowth - yeah - well. So the pesticide can't be killing off all the insects.

So now we have our resident gecko. He moved in. I was up unusually early the other morning, and when I switched on the kitchen light there was a darting movement across the floor, and there, utterly motionless, was our gecko. I'm assuming it's the same one because of the kink in its tail. So there we stood, the pair of us, higher mammal and rather low-slung lizard, both instinctively adopting the 'If-I-stay-very-still-s/he'll-think-I'm-not-really-here' technique. (Gosh, geckos are so sophisticated!). Eventually, he left for his appointment behind the washing machine, and I got my cup of tea. And last night he, his clone, or one of three very unlucky geckos, was up on the living room ceiling. It's very exciting. Maybe he can reach the sodding mozzies from there.

Ooh! Hot tip, and one of the more useful things I've learnt here: If you get bitten by a mosquito, press some table salt on the bite. It will stick, and draw out the intestinal muck the mozzie left in exchange for your blood, leaving your skin itch-free and unmarked. If the salt brushes off and the bite stiil itches, add more. It works on a fresh bite, or on the burning morning-after cluster from of a little nocturnal mozzie banquet. Don't scratch. Put salt on it!

And maybe invest in one of those plug-in bug-buggerers.


nzm said...

I used to have one of a similar size in my bedroom in Fiji.

I called him Geronimo because of his skill in running along the ceiling, losing grip and free-falling, little legs splayed out, to the floor (without parachute), to land with a *splat*.

My fascination with him was at a peak whenever he caught a moth, and I could see it fluttering around in his belly in its final death throes!

I bid Geronimo adieu when we left for NZ.

MamaDuck said...

How long do gecko's live? Fella's only 8-10cm long from nose to bent tail tip, but there used to be one about 15cm on the balcony.

nzm said...

I have no idea of their life span.

Geri was about 15cm too. I could hear him running on the ceiling. He was a heavy-footed gecko!

Mme Cyn said...

I also am fond of the useful little critters, though on a recent visit to the Philippines, I nearly swore off them for life. The one that had been peaceably hanging out in our hotel bogs had decided to have a little siesta in the shade -- under the toilet seat. You never saw a naked woman or a lizard move so fast! Tee hee.