Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I Love The Smell Of Permethrin In The Morning

Of all the wars in which this nation is currently engaged, the least covered in the media, discussed on Twitter, or made controversial reference to by the Deputy Prime Minister during PM's Questions is the War of the Fleas.

This is because the War of the Fleas is a comparatively small war, being fought on quite a localised front, id est down the posh end of Broad Street in Penryn.

(All of Broad Street is *quite* posh, but this end is posher due to its being situated opposite The Square, which is the poshest bit of Penryn by far, and doesn't really take kindly to being overlooked by the scuzzy-by-comparison houses that comprise The Posh End of Broad Street, but there we have it, that's how the medieval town planners laid it out in 1259 and there's no going back now.)

And when I say 'down the posh end of Broad Street' I really mean 'in our house', aka Casa Patroclus, or, if you prefer, Blue Cat Towers.

If one were to follow in the mighty footsteps of A.J.P. Taylor and cast about for the origins of the War of the Fleas - for its inciting incident, if you like - one would be hard pressed to identify anything as definitive as, say, Hitler's invasion of Poland in 1939. No Archdukes were bitten outside no. 42 during any of Penryn's many parades. No tiny aeroplanes emerged from the Western skies to destroy the yuppie flats in the recently-gentrified Inner Harbour. The fleas are not - as far as I can tell - evolved robots returning from hundreds of years in exile with a nebulous plan to annihilate the human race. I have no idea how it started, or how it got to the point I am about to describe.

For readers, I am ashamed to tell you, earlier this summer the situation reached a low ebb for the motley band of human and feline fighters whose wretched lot was to strive valiantly, day in, day out, against the indefatigable hordes of tiny, biting invaders. There were casualties, many casualties, on both sides. Hundreds of fleas were teased from their hiding places among the cat's fur to meet a boiling, salty, watery end. Hundreds perished in sweeping aerial attacks of R.I.P. Fleas. Biological weapons designed to annihilate the fleas' children and their children's children, yea even unto the tenth generation, were strategically, then indiscriminately, deployed. A sheepskin rug had to be thrown out.

To no avail. Like H.G. Wells's Martians, still they came.

Your human and feline heroes had to change tactics. High-tech weapons had failed. Blanket bombing, carpet bombing, bathmat bombing, all had failed. A short-lived offensive which involved transporting individual fleas to Falmouth in the car, then depositing them in Church Street Car Park, proved to be environmentally and logistically inefficient. It was time for something new.

Enter the parcel tape.

Parcel tape, as it turns out, is a pretty effective anti-flea weapon when deployed judiciously. Favourite tactics include:

1. Sticking strips of tape across the carpet, then removing the lot - and any adherent victims - in one satisfying wrench.

2. Watching, waiting, watching, waiting for a nasty leaping beast to get on to the cream-coloured sofa, then swooping from above with a pre-cut section of tape. Result: instant sticky death.

3. Romantically scanning each other's limbs and clothing for errant fleas, then either a) leaping into action with a pre-prepared section of tape or b) wildly shouting 'tape! tape!', in the knowledge that one's other half knows by now exactly what is signified by this stirring war cry, and will respond by passing the nearest roll. (N.B. not to be undertaken while guests are present.)

It has been quite a miserable summer, all told, not helped by being heavily pregnant for most of it. But now we have reached if not the end, then perhaps the beginning of the end. For today the War of the Fleas entered a new phase, marked by the emergence of an exciting new game that may soon be sweeping the nation. I will spare you the intricate detail of Dirt or Dead?, but suffice it to say the winner is the player who can most accurately distinguish between a) a small piece of black fluff and b) a Corpse of the Fallen.

The cat, meanwhile, has taken to living a shadowy twilight existence under the garden table and refuses to set foot in the house. But soon, all will be back to normal. I hope.


Dave said...

I felt sure the cat was going to be wrapped in parcel tape, until not one hair was visible to the many eyes of the swarm.

patroclus said...

Don't think that I haven't been very tempted.

John Cowan said...

Cold comfort, I know, but be glad it's not the War of the Bedbugs. That involves disposing of furniture and putting everything you have into tightly sealed plastic bags for six weeks. Been there, done that.

chuffy! said...

This shadow-seeking cat may have a larger part in this story than you have documented.

I can well imagine *her* blog about The War of the Fleas.

patroclus said...

John: That sounds unimaginably awful, you have my sympathies.

Chuffy!: This is a cat that has been largely untroubled by fleas for 10 of the 11 years I've had her. I don't know why it all went so horribly wrong this year. Atmospheric conditions? Meteor showers? Sunspots? Is the Apocalypse approaching again?

Ellie T said...

Our cats have Program injections to render fleas infertile. But now I think about it, I don't think they've had them for a year or two, so their flea-repellence is all in my mind. I expect to see fleas hopping here forthwith. Glad to hear fleas are providing entertainment for y'all anyway. Ugh to bedbugs too, not liking the sound of that at all.

chatterbox said...

Maybe the fleas have all moved upmarket to the posh end of Penryn. Certainly we have had surprisingly few fleas to contend with this year. We have wasps instead at the moment.

I wonder if parcel tape works on wasp nests?

patroclus said...

Ellie: Is Program the injections? I might try that. We use Frontline on the cat, which seems to work most of the time - just don't know what happened this year.

Chatterbox: Applying parcel tape to a wasps' nest sounds like a recipe for a horrible, painful and early demise, and not for the wasps neither.

chatterbox said...

Sadly I think you might be right, but it is a very satisfying idea all the same.

Tim Footman said...

Was Permethrin not a minor villain in Poldark?

If you wrap yourselves tightly in parcel tape, making sure not to leave any part of your persons open to the elements, the fleas won't be able to get to you.

Ellie T said...

Yes, it's the injections. We lead a healthy, organic lifestyle but the same cannot be said for our cats! However, if it works and I don't have to deal with infestations then I think it's probably worth it. We have yet another wasps next this year, and I'm too much of a wimp to do anything about it but wait for winter (which I loathe all other aspects of).
Incidentally, does anyone still call you Flea? Maybe they think you are their leader?

karen dawe said...

Yes yes and yes for Program. Frontline suddenly stopped working for us. About the time our lady cat formed an unlikely friendship with the half-dead flea-ridden dog next-door. She would spend days sleeping atop the dog's bloated belly, then come back to ours and spread fleas far and wide. Too much for Frontline. Program injections worked wonders. Eventual demise of the dog helped also.

Anonymous said...

that whole parcel tape thing sounds fantastically rewarding. just wait til the blue kitten gets headlice - that's even better! i used to relish the battle - and rather miss it these days. *eyes cat speculatively*

meg xx