Occasionally, the peace was broken by a vehicle coming along the road. You heard the roar of an engine as it crossed the stream and the driver accelerated up the incline to the village limits – a headlight revealing their location to us. Mostly they were small motorbikes, the odd taxi. Rarely did we see lorries at night. Once or twice another four wheel drive might bounce through. Everyone would look up from what they were doing and look across, even in the darkness you knew these outside effects were still rare enough to gather villagers’ interests.
Our conversation thinned; we were all tired. Even though it was not yet 9pm, we decided to retire to our own rooms. We brought in all the crockery and pans and left them in a plastic bowl for our cook to take off to clean. We carefully carried the chairs back inside but decided to leave the table out under the veranda, and I struggled to close the two doors and lock up. In the dark I fumbled to use the latrine, then tried to make myself as comfortable in my bedroom. It was horribly stuffy inside. I tried to open the window shutter, but one of the hinges was broken and it wedged hardly an inch out from the frame. I noticed there was no screen on the window. I hoped the mosquito net would provide sufficient barrier. I undressed. I wetted a flannel which is a precaution I take in all hot stuffy houses, and left it on the chair which I positioned near my pillows next to the bed. I took off my clothes and left them on the lid of my suitcase with the hope they would be away from dust and clambered into bed through the gap in the net. I had my torch on my head and surveyed the quality of the net; as I had dreaded there were a lot of holes in it – too many to try and block. I removed an itchy thin blanket and climbed in under a thick polyester sheet. It was uncomfortable from the start and as soon as I lay down I realised I had started sweating. I reached out and grabbed the flannel and tried to wipe water on every part of my body. The cold of the flannel and the few moments of evaporation that followed were an exquisite release, but only for a few seconds. I was hot again in moments. I tried some reading but was dog tired. I turned off the torch and put it to one side of the pillow and lay there in the dark and tried to relax for sleep. For a time I found I was concentrating on the noises in the houses around me. Being at the back of the house my bedroom was adjoining another property and there was still some late night cleaning of pots and pans and general chit chat going on; and the chickens and goats never stopped their clucking and bleating. Gradually this started to mentally disappear into the background. I started to relax and feel slumber coming on.
I was startled out of this state by a noise coming across the room at me. It was the high pitched buzz of a female mosquito. I knew I was not to get to sleep now. Even though it might not find its way through the netting, the constant hum moving around the room was distracting; no that is wrong; it was not distracting, it was completely fixating. I flashed my torch around in the hope of catching it in the beam but no luck. I had to just lie there and take my fate.
I tried all sorts of tricks to get me off to sleep, counting, reciting lists of geographical features both real and imaginary; things like all the railway stations from Victoria to Dover Western Docks or the countries of Middle Earth. I tried to breathe more deeply and slowly. Nothing worked. Or so I thought.
I awoke at first light and realised I must have at last dropped off. Although still glum I could make out the austere contents of my room. I also felt some irritating pain in my calves. I drew my leg up to take a look and saw a constellation of mosquito bites. The other leg was equally affected, and had one or two on my midriff and arms. It always feels that I have been attacked by a whole army of mosquitoes but it was probably just one or two. Why they cannot just suck blood from one hole and reduce the number of itchy places on my skin; maybe the swelling gets too much for their proboscis.