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Midsummer madness: In which we get ants in our pants – and pretty much everywhere else too…

17 Apr 2024 | Written by Marina O'Shea

Retired journalist and full-time carer for her husband, Geraldine Durrant, shares another story of twists and turns regarding her life as a carer…You can find the previous installments of Geraldine’s column here.

VERY many years ago, when we were living in California and I was pregnant with our third son, we attended American antenatal classes.

We were already veterans of two births, but the maternity hospital made class attendance mandatory for fathers who wanted to be present at a delivery.

So despite our status as experienced parents, we went along and were astonished to hear one expectant mum complain, incomprehensibly and at length, about “problems with ants…”

I had seen The Naked Jungle, starring Charlton Heston, and knew that army ants will consume everything within their path: and I had seen houses on Coronado Island where we lived swathed in plastic in readiness for fumigation against any number of bugs.

But I had no idea that ants were a danger to babies…

Happily, after a couple of very puzzling minutes, it transpired that the ants in question were not in fact members of the family Formicidae, but what we, with our Home Counties accents, would more properly have called “aunts” – and their annoying habit of offering unsolicited advice on the care of newborns.

Bertie Wooster – a man famously wary of his own formidable aunts – would undoubtedly have endorsed the advice to ignore meddling female relatives and trust maternal instinct…

But four decades on, we were once again having “problems with ants…”

Every year at around this time an exploratory scout or two would find its way indoors to do a recce and report back to Ant HQ on the advisability of launching a full scale invasion of Durrant Towers.

I am fond of the industrious little creatures outside but I draw a firm line at the back door, and with some sadness take steps every year to ensure that they don’t trespass on either my kitchen floor – or my goodwill.

So the first time a member of the scouting party is spotted scurrying furtively across the boundary between our worlds I whip out the ant powder and engage in the annual battle to repel our tiny boarders.

Real ants I can deal with.

Imaginary ones are more problematical…
For the third morning running Patrick had woken me at daybreak to complain that he was covered in them.

They are not only all over him, but swarming freely around the bedroom, and indeed all over me.

“But Patrick – there is nothing there,” I protested in vain, anxious to pull up the covers for another hour or two in bed.

“Go back to sleep…”

But Patrick was merely astonished at my wilful blindness.

How could he possibly sleep when his bed had been overrun with tiny creatures which had now turned both red and nasty?

“Look,” he said earnestly, attempting to scoop up a handful and hold them under my nose for closer inspection.

“Now they are fighting each other…”

But even as they evaded his grasp and I had ‘dusted’ them firmly off both of us, he would not be deflected.

“What about a shower?” I eventually asked, knowing when I was beaten.

“If you had a lovely shower it would wash them off and you could get back to bed.”

But apparently there are too many of them, and Patrick was worried they might clog the drain, so I sat him down and googled for reinforcement.

“Look,” I said, pointing to an article on dementia and insects.

“It says right here that sometimes people with your sort of confusion often think they see ants…”

Patrick looked at me pityingly.

“Of course,” he said, “I KNOW that…”

“That’s because they are ill and only imagining their ants.

“But MY ants are REAL…”

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