x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Waiting for the next bite

Expat life The dietary habits of a new wave of expats should be worrying Colin Randall by now.

The dietary habits of a new wave of expats should by now be worrying me. Mynas and rose-ringed parakeets are among the newcomers in question. They are accused of crowding out native bird species and, unlike them, eating lizards and other insect-eating creatures while showing less appetite for insects. But if this is leading to an increased presence of mosquitoes, as I have seen reported in these pages, why am I being left alone? After spending my entire adulthood at the mercy of the wretched things, I have lived for nine months in Abu Dhabi without knowingly meeting a single member of the family culicidae.

My knowledge of natural science does not extend very far. I have no idea whether Emirati mosquitoes differ significantly in tastes and habits from the assorted European, American, African and Asian varieties that have greedily ganged up on me over the years. But whatever the truth, it has been a relief to be able to go to bed each night in the knowledge that my sleep is unlikely to be disturbed by whining airborne predators. I long ago stopped even thinking of using repellents. My wife, accustomed on evenings out to retracting her hand in horror on realising that mine has been sprayed, has had virtually no cause to repeat her mantra: "Are you trying to poison me?"

And except when I have been out of the country and under attack once more, I have not woken to the telltale itching, or raging little lumps that confirm my skin has received uninvited nocturnal visitors. My worst mosquito experiences have been in parts of the world where you hardly expect anything else. France's Atlantic coast, Milan and Kenya spring to mind as places where I have given blood generously.

And it is fair to say that my aversion to mosquitoes has, in the past, assumed obsessional proportions, deeply irritating to those close to me. My daughters couldn't care less if I smothered every inch of exposed flesh with chemicals. But they did once, when very young, protest mournfully on nature's behalf at my use of a hard-backed library book, originally intended for holiday reading, to flatten French mosquitoes against the ceiling (though they were begging me before the end of the holiday to press the book back into service).

In the UAE, I naturally bargained on having to employ the usual paraphernalia to minimise the risk of being bitten. After all, I am not pretending for a moment that mosquitoes do not exist here, and I have been out in the desert at night, crossed Dubai Creek by abra and dined on numerous occasions al fresco, all activities liable to attract them. Perhaps, then, I have merely been fortunate. If so, that luck could yet run out and the lull in the conflict may be just that: a lull to be followed at some future unguarded moment by a sting in my happy tale.