It's been a gloomy sort of start to 2012, with horrible, tragic things happening on the roads and skies and more generally, a constant stream of rain-sodden days to contend with.
Thankfully so far my family has been spared any of the more extreme fates. The usual holiday disasters that have befallen us in times past - Christmas turkeys that catch on fire, food poisoning or missed plane connections - have also been absent.
But constant grey skies have taken their toll on the festive season. The problem in this household - and probably many others - is that the household income earner has exactly two weeks in which to fit in his longest extended relaxation period for the year, and there is hardly any relaxing to be found when stuck inside with a three and five year old with cabin fever, a four month old baby getting his first tooth, and a wife who longs to hop the next plane to Rarotonga.
Somehow a steady stream of sun tricks the mind into relaxing, even when every day is full of activity. With rain, mental energy needs to be spent before one even leaves the house. How best to fill these days? DVDs, movies, Lego and crayons and paper have been our constant friends. Just this weekend Ali was dispatched to watch Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked with the kids. It's a movie franchise low on irony or adult humour (which is probably right), has seemingly zero charm or originality (as befits a franchise) but as an aside, why do the female chipmunks do more gyrating in their musical numbers than real-life pole dancers? ("Faintly alluring" proclaimed the man of the house, which I felt was a good attitude to have considering he'll probably be watching the next three instalments as well).
While the rest of the household was out suffering through the Chipmunks, and while the baby took one of its scattered catnaps, I was at home battling mentally with my other great scourge of this time of year: insects. If we are not inundated with ants, we are besieged with flies, bitten to death by mosquitoes and even cockroaches make an unwelcome appearance at times.
Thankfully we haven't quite hit weta season yet, so I have spared being bitten, like i was last year, by one who decided to crawl into my purse overnight and snuggle into the billfold. I have not yet spent the night with one on my leg like a couple of years ago, or just about hit my head on the porcelain sink falling off the toilet when one revealed itself in a toilet roll just days after.
In years past I have spent hours trying to outwit seemingly millions of ants who descend upon the back of the house, where there isn't even food but there is a nice warm window pane. Even professional ant exterminators have failed to stem the tide of them. And like ants, flies seem to be a constant fixture of summer life across the city unless you keep your doors and windows firmly closed - quite impossible in the heat. Cockroaches, mosquitoes and other creepy crawlies can be banished for a short while but always return..
This year I have employed a different technique to deal with the bugs, which is why I say I was battling mentally rather than physically with them. During the course of this year I read a book called Buddhism for Busy People by David Michie after hearing the author speak on National Radio. In it, he writes about karma and how important it is to have compassion for all sentient beings, including ants. It made me question why I was so keen to spend all summer getting rid of them, when they were nowhere near the food, and quite honestly, did no one any harm.
So, in the spirit of New Years resolutions, here's mine: no non-essential bug killing. I now watch the ants without trying every poison in the book to eradicate them, and feel far more zen for it. I reflexively detest flies, having watched my parents constantly nearly break their necks swatting them as a child, but I am learning to try and shoo them out windows instead. Wetas have never been killed - Ali has to come and remove them as I cower in the corner - and spiders are given a completely free pass. I'm still struggling with a homicidal feeling towards cockroaches, and mosquitoes do get the heave-ho, but in all I feel quite good about this new mental direction.
After all, there's enough to do battle with through these wet summer days without adding 20 species of insects to the list!