Ah, sarcasm. Can't beat it. But as a slightly foolish and over-excitable relative of irony, very relevant indeed. For this week, the ticks were not a teacher's best friend at all; no, they made life a complete misery.
Exmoor is a beautiful, wild zone separating the Bristol Channel from the A361, a realm of heather-smirched rounded hills and terrifying steep descents into sleepy seaside towns. It is famous for its scenery, its cider, its horrifying 1950s floods and its beautiful population of red deer, which have wandered the place since God-knows when. These deer are content to bellow maniacally and smash each others' heads in, seemingly oblivious to the grim creatures that stud their exterior. Deer, you see, are the Pearly Kings and Queens of Exmoor, studded with tiny, shiny humps of pearlescent white and marbled brown - often resembling the branch of Selfridges in Birmingham, so cloaked in blood-sucking ticks they are. For these arachnid vampires are a very real presence anywhere that large mammals such as red deer, roe deer, dogs and people interact with each other through the medium of long grass: a lesson I have learned well this week.
|Exmoor's coast, near Lynton. |
A picture of a tick would just gross you out.
No red deer had been seen at all in the week, so ticks had been of little concern to us; our hubris would have made Macbeth tut and shake his head in worry. For my part, I had never even seen a tick in the wild, and was of the opinion that ticks only ever happened to 'other people' - people who liked carrying maps in plastic envelopes around their necks and ate Kendal mint cake more than once a year. They never happened to folk who drank lattes and drove a Fiesta. Well, they did happen
. Four separate ticks, all nuzzled in that peculiarly intimate way of theirs into just one individual. Four tiny little beasts - spiders drawn by toddlers - all eagerly burrowing down to the artesian well of blood that lies beneath the skin.
Cue a brace of days frantically tumble-drying every single item of clothing taken on the trip, at a high heat, for twenty minutes. Cue panicked research online into the order of symptoms and likeliness of death from Lyme Disease. Cue endless - limitless and deathly boring - examinations of bare skin every time an itch was felt. Believe me, the experience was so icky that itches were a constant, dull reminder of the body's ability to freak itself out unnecessarily. Everything itched. I'm fairly certain that for a short time, even my pockets were itching.
It's all over now, but I'm painfully aware that should another darling little critter rear its abdomen at any point in the next week, we'll have to go through the whole de-ticking process once more, at which point I will probably just give in to their whims and allow them to turn me into a walking nosebag.
I look forward to September, where I will once again be dishing out the ticks, rather than being a dish for them.