Saturday, 10 January 2009


At 3am this morning I awoke needing to ‘ease myself’ (as they say here). I fumbled around beside my pillow for the wind-up head torch I always keep there and removed one of my earplugs to help my consciousness before untucking a small exit through the mosquito net and walking across the dark room towards the en suite bathroom, taking care to watch out for any night visitors scurrying across the floor. Luckily, there were none. I deftly removed the large nail which serves as a padlock to keep the bathroom door shut so that I don’t have to listen to the wheezing and dripping of the loose faucet (six days and the plumber still hasn’t returned) and shone the torch quickly across the small bathroom and shower tray to see if anyone else would be sharing my private moment.

Once back in bed, I re-tucked the mosquito net under the mattress to avoid creepy crawlies coming up from the floor, re-inserted the remaining earplug, and laid back awaiting sleep.

This usually comes to me after about 10 seconds but after what seemed to be at least 20 minutes lying awake I decided to turn on the TV and watch a Mel Gibson movie. The light from the TV, wall mounted in a corner of the room, caught the attention of Peter our guard, who is on night duty at the moment, and I could hear him shuffling by the window in the narrow passageway that runs between the side of the house and a neighbour’s wall. I went up to the window, which is the only one in the house that has a gap in the mosquito netting for accessing the shutters, and clearly saw Peter’s face peering through. “I’m just watching TV”, I said. “OK, OK” he said in his usual manner, as other people, including a big black man I didn’t recognise, squeezed past in the passageway behind him, taking in the opportunity to gawp at the batauri in her night clothes.

As I returned back to bed I noticed a small movement from under a pile of clothes I had (uncharacteristically) left lying on the torn linoleum floor. I pushed it a bit and it twitched again so I picked up my wind-up hand torch to use as a club and beat the floor where I thought the critter would be. Just then our maid Victoria walked into the room so I asked for her help and we clubbed away as a small rat and various lizards ran across the room.

Before we could assess the extent of our rodent massacre I heard noises from the neighbouring sitting room where I found an unexpected crowd of batauri. These included members from a touring UK women’s rugby team and a comedienne, who bore a striking resemblance to supposed 9/11 victim’s Paul’s 2nd American wife in the BBC series Mistresses, and who was promoting her personalised merchandise from a nicely printed catalogue. More people arrived from the narrow passageway which I had ascertained was the main route to the house from the large sloping field of closely mown lush green grass that stretched out beyond the house to the horizon.

Just then the ‘toot toot’ of our Peugeot was heard from outside the front door so we (and I can’t remember exactly who ‘we’ were) piled in. Marcus then revved up the engine and drove off at top speed across and down the verdant field as his passengers bounced around in the back..

You will by now have realised that this was a dream – in fact if you hadn’t realised by the line ‘I turned on the TV’, it’s time for you to re-read the rest of the CicelyinNigeria blog, particularly the references to electricity and the facilities of the Pink House.
But this was not a normal dream but what I would specifically describe as a Lariam dream, which those of you who have followed my blog from the beginning would have come across on my pre-departure entry “Blame the Lariam”.
Lariam is an anti-malaria drug. There are three, supposedly effective, options for anti-malarials in Nigeria: Doxycycline, an antibiotic which you need to take daily; Malarone, another daily tablet which costs ten times as much as the alternatives and is not licensed for continuous use over six months (and is therefore a last resort for VSO); and Lariam which is the most tried and tested drug but does have a reputation for some fruity side-effects including dizziness, nervousness, vivid dreams/nightmares and daytime hallucinations.

Some VSOs had to switch from Lariam to the alternatives after being unable to balance on a bicycle at a traffic light (whilst completely sober), shaking uncontrollably for no reason or waking up to find huge maggots crawling amongst their legs in bed. Luckily for me, it has just given me more vivid, and to be honest more interesting, dreams. The most scary moment (to date) was dreaming that I’d woken up with a small French girl sleeping head to toe in bed with me... that and having a small rat and lizards running across the room.. Even that wasn’t really scary.

Anyway, the next thing I remembered after driving into the sunset across the green fields in the battered Peugeot, was being woken by a muffled noise from nearby that penetrated the candy-coloured foam of my earplugs from the British Snoring and Sleep Apnoiea Association. Whilst earplugs (and particularly these earplugs) are a marvellous aid to peaceful and uninterrupted sleep through the nocturnal Kagoro menagerie that includes dogs, crickets, cockerels, and the Imam of the nearby mosque who gets going at 04:30, it can be difficult to interpret the sounds that do come through which leads to a degree of anxiety (particularly if you’re on Lariam). Is the sound you hear of a person or small animal walking around outside or inside (your house, room, mosquito net)? I removed the earplugs and realised Laurie was up and at her computer in the sitting room. She’d also woken up at about 3.00am however hadn’t had the benefit of Lariam to tease her waking hours with sleep.

Laurie and Dori are on Doxycycline.
Or was I dreaming...?
END NOTE: I’ll be going to Abuja on Wednesday to pick up new three VSOs who will be joining us for a placement visit before going to their final destinations. I will also be picking up new anti-malaria tablets for the Pink House. That means our first three months is almost over!


Glenn said...

I'm very glad it was only a dream, Cicely. Otherwise, I would be green with envy. A wall-mounted television? In my old bedroom? Say it isn't so! I was ready to pack up and return to Nigeria if those were the improvements that you'd made to the Pink House! Have fun in Abuja and try not to scare the VSO rookies too much!



Jenny said...

Cicely, all these critters are fairly common in Florida- but not so in England I bet.
I never remember my dreams-yours are very exciting!
jenny in Florida

Anonymous said...

Jared: the old larium nightmare hey Cecil! I was concerned about these but am glad to hear that this seems to be the first since September! I also must adit that you caught me out with the comment about the TV to begin with and then I thought - no never!!! Actually maybe you could build a TV stand for you laptop and use it as a colour TV in the corner. Great critter photos - I saw a similar lizard in Kalbarri gorge!
Toodles Jared xx

davidj said...

Hmmm, thought you had invited Hunter S Thompson to guest as blog writer for a while. I just looked up the side effects of that stuff - try and stay away from weaponry for the time being!!!! Another great blog - keep them coming........