Thursday, October 4, 2007

Ants in my pants

It is bucketing again in Phnom Penh. I can hardly hear myself think above the drumming of rain drops on the roof, water is seeping through the walls and I despair of anything ever drying out in this house. All our clothes smell of mildew and the beds and sofa feel damp and sticky. But! At least it means that I can leave the washing up ‘til tomorrow for a change. The ants won’t be coming in tonight.

At 2am this morning, as I was in the kitchen getting water for Jemima, (yes it does happen often. There is always something. A mosquito biting her; the fan making her cold; the monsters are out in force again, or a ‘sweet bunny’ is licking her toes), I noticed a dying cockroach, on the floor. It was being pulled this way and that by two opposing armies of ants. I was enjoying the spectacle actually, and my own calm air of disdain. For once I had the upper hand. It is a rare thing for me to be able to watch a cockroach suffer. Normally they have me screaming for James and jumping onto the nearest chair.

It was then that I had my brainwave: I will post a blog with a hot tip for protecting one’s children from ants. Yes. Believe it or not there are many places in the world where this piece of advice will be considered very useful to mothers. I have a friend who found ants hurrying into her baby’s mouth as he slept – they love the sweet smell of breast milk.

In our house we have five different kinds of ants. There are the tiny ‘crazy’ ants that wander aimlessly across the walls and floors, in a surprisingly disorganised fashion given that they are ants. More orderly are the big, fat, black ants that form perfect circles around dried up drops of juice on the floor. (Picture a child’s drawing of a very small sun, but with many more rays.) The smaller, thinner ants may look harmless but their bite can hurt for days, whereas the red ant’s sting only hurts for half an hour or so. But most painful of all is the bite of the huge, black, flying ants nesting in Jemima’s mosquito net. Now do you appreciate my obsession? Even as I have been writing this blog James has asked me: "Do you want the apricots sitting out in the kitchen because the ants do?".

I have to say I’m actually learning to live with the little buggers (excuse the pun) – the non-biting ones at least. It is amazing to watch their determined little bodies at work, and their cunning never ceases to amaze me. They have even found a way of getting into the sugar that lives in the shelf of the freezer door, without dying of hyperthermia in the process. They march up the outside wall when it rains, carrying their huge, white eggs away from their flooded, under-ground nests. I’ve given up trying to keep them out of the house. I’ve even got used to them running up and down my arm whenever I am anywhere near food. But when they bite one of my children? Well, that really makes me mad.

So here’s my tip. I have recently learned, thanks to the Phnom Penh playgroup, that ants cannot cross talcum powder or cayenne pepper. On the walls it doesn’t work as they just go higher and higher to avoid it, but on the floor it does the trick nicely. So now, when Bella sits in her bouncy chair, watching me cook, she is safe inside a circle of talcum powder. Jemima and I pour it all over our feet on entering the kitchen.

Be careful though. After letting rip at Jemima last night for scraping it off the floor and putting it inside her sister’s mouth, she responded, confused: “But you do it all the time, Mummy”. It was then that I realised that children do not know the difference between talcum powder and teething powder. But ants do, and that’s what matters.


Iota said...

The difference between talcum powder and teething powder. How could anyone have ever predicted that that would be something a 2 year old should know?

Pig in the Kitchen said...

Gosh, don't let Jemima near the cayenne pepper and the baby...or you could all be up all night.

Ants. Yuk. and such a horrible story about your friend's baby.
but thanks for the top tip!

Alberto Masetti-Zannini said...

Just got a tip from Tara about your new blog. It's excellent. I love it! I'll add it to my favourites and hopefully help you generate some traffic!

Oh, and congratulations on becoming a mum (to James too, of course!)



Georgie said...

Hi Alberto!

Great to hear from you. Thanks for visiting and for your lovely comments about the blog. Just starting but it's good fun! What is your blog address so I can take a look and link it too?

Georgie x

Anonymous said...

Hi Georgie

liked your blog. I am a mom in Phnom Penh in desperate need of a playgroup for my 9 month old. It's sad when your child's best friend is the baby on your diaper packaging!

Kascha and baby Jemma

Georgie said...


There is Matthe's play group - tues and thurs at 11 for a 9 month year old - here is the number 012960657

and music for babies for free - fri 830 and wed 430 at living room.

Urm, have you tried Cambodia Parent Network? Are you on that email list? There may be more I don;t know about. Are you breastfeeding? I run a breastfeeding group as well which is a nice way to meet other mums and their babes (similar ages).

Thanks for commenting on the blog! Gxxx