It’s Just Not Cricket!

8 09 2008

“Never mind the buffalo behind the toilet, what about the crickets behind my tent?!” (Nakuru, Kenya)

Apart from cockroaches, maggots, mosquitoes, black widow and redback spiders and anything I find in my bed, I generally don’t kill insects. But there are exceptions.


It was a chilly evening spent huddled around the campfire with the heat of the fire on our faces and the cold of the night on our backs. After saying goodnight and dousing the flames, we all traipsed off to our tents. By torchlight I hurriedly removed my boots and clambered into my sleeping bag, pulling the zip closed and hunching deep down inside the cocoon. I flicked off the flashlight and lay in the darkness as a wave of delicious tiredness washed over me.


The bush that encircled our camp was unusually quiet except for the rustle of wind through the trees and the occasional call of a nightjar. Just as I was dozing off, the shrill chirrup of a cricket rang through the tent. I awoke with a start and stared into the inky blackness. After a few seconds, my eyes closed again under the weight of heavy lids. The cricket sounded again. I sat bolt upright. He went silent. I remained sitting. He remained silent. I lay down, he chirped tauntingly.


As silently as possible, I slid from my sleeping bag, the cool air immediately sending a rippling chill down my warm body. I sat motionless awaiting his next move. I became colder but he stayed quiet. Finally, he blinked and peeled off a high-pitched note. My ears instantly rotated like tracking dishes. I flicked on the flashlight and shined the beam directly at the source of my torment. There was nothing there. I searched the whole area but quickly determined that my insomnia siren was on the outside of the tent.


I shined the torch around hoping that the bright light would drive him away and settled back down in the warmth. The caress of the wind through the long grass quickly lulled me to sleep. My head sank into the folded fleece jacket I was using as a pillow and consciousness flooded from my body. Until my nocturnal nemesis rang again. Several times, loudly, just to ensure that I was paying attention.


Jumping up like a madman, I thumped the canvas from ground to ceiling right the way round my shelter, cursing wildly under my breath.


“Don’t make me come out there” I hissed like a man deranged.


I sat breathlessly until the cold got the better of me and again retreated into my sleeping bag. The silence was enveloping. Even the wind seemed to have gone to bed, but the cricket wasn’t fooling me this time. I knew that the moment I surrendered to sleep, he’d be back. Unable to fight it any longer, my eyes involuntarily closed and I slipped into a deep luxurious sleep, my heavy body sinking into the ground.


His next call was the loudest yet and had my heart exploding in my chest. I leaped up, grabbed my boots, dived out of the tent and maniacally searched both sides of the flysheet for Satan’s little grasshopper. There was nothing there. I’d driven him away. I’d won. Victory and sleep were mine.


Exhausted, shivering and demented, I climbed back inside, slipped off my boots, and retired to my sleeping bag. The battle had lasted an hour but I was victorious. The silence was like the trumpet of angels and a satisfied grin eased across my face. I plummeted into a magnificent deep sleep.


And then the frog began to call his mates.



Photo and post by: Simon Vaughan




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