It’s a Jungle in Here!

by Michael Patrick O'Leary



Sir Thaddeus O’Grouch

 I wrote this on Open Salon back in 2009 under yet another of my multiple identities.

A despatch from our correspondent in Sri Lanka.


My dear wife, Lady Tourette O’Grouch, is engaged in philanthropic work like distributing potato peelings to the serfs, thrashing the minions, or, like that Jane Seymour character on the electric television thingy, bandaging the indigent. I do not hear any screams of terror, which is the usual indication that she is carrying out a job appraisal review.

I see my faithful manservant, Kotte (Old Scrotum, the wrinkled retainer) asleep in a heap exuding kasippu fumes and on the point of spontaneous combustion.

Little Dobbie Driblette, the maid of all work, “shod in shoes of silence”, is gainfully employed pilfering items from the stores under the mistaken belief that because her own eyesight is poor, I cannot see her. Not only see but smell – there is an indescribable fetor surrounding her like a miasma and one can register her presence at several hundred yards.

The Buddhists have a concept of merit arising from good works – they call it ping – and we have long tried to inculcate the idea of the merit of good works into Dobbie but the idea of any kind of work is anathema to her. No ping but plenty of pong.

I am in the kitchen attempting to make myself a restorative koppe (I am quite the new man, you see. Not like these Sri Lankan boy-men or Irishmen who are proud that they cannot make themselves a beverage without the assistance of some female)

It rather disconcerting to observe that the sugar is on the move. Huge red ants are trying to make their escape from the jar.

In an ancient comedy show on the steam wireless thingy, the English comedian, Tony Hancock, complained to his housekeeper, Griselda Pugh (played by Hattie Jacques, a huge, mountainous woman who wobbled when she breathed) about her lack of culinary skills. “My mother was a rotten cook but at least her gravy used to move about a bit.”

Personally, I prefer my food to be immobile, meat to have been already slaughtered before it arrives on my plate. After a night on the ould arrack, I can cope with the tremors of my hands (Lady Tourette chaffs me that the tremors are my notion of foreplay!) but I would like the sugar to keep still while I am making a strong coffee in the morning.

I don’t much like the way, in another jar, evil little weevils are reducing the chick peas to gram flour.


Later, when I am on the old Thunder Box, taking a relaxing constitutional, scanning the newspaper in vain for cheerful tidings, mosquitoes the size of small helicopters emerge from the toilet bowl and swarms of wasps land on my head.

In the shower, a small frog, the size of a mung bean, with big bulging eyes like Ray Bans, glares at me. A larger frog, warty as Robert Redford, leaps around the tiles.

Taking an improving tome from the extensive O’Grouch library, I discover that I am holding only the spine in my hand and a pile of dust; armies of white ants are hurtling about the shelves carrying their eggs. The library ate my books.

There was a small hole in the plaster in the baronial hallway of O’Grouch Towers. Without my bleary eyes noticing, it had got bigger and bigger. I steeled myself to peer into the hole and – the horror, the horror; begorrah the horror- there was something moving in there! During the daily downpour which refused to stay outside but came tumbling through the roof and ceiling and flooded the floor, the creatures emerged, huge flying ants that soon formed a foul fog that obscured the whole interior from sight.

Similar creatures are eating away at the brand new wooden frame of the window in the master bedroom.

Outside, the rains flushed out numerous scorpions like prehistoric humvees and centipedes like malevolent moustaches.

Opening the hood of the newly acquired Grouchmobile, I find that some hooligan elements of the rodent domain have set up home as squatters therein and have been eating various bits of foam and plastic. No doubt, they will soon set to work on something important like the brake cables.

During the day a serpent eagle rides the thermals looking for snakes full of frogs which are full of ants and flies. I think it may have its eye on the cat, which is full of geckoes.

Huge skrawking crows circle doomily around the Muslim slaughterhouse next door.

Relaxing in the crepuscule surveying the O’Grouch estate with a bumper of claret in my hand, eye-flies laying eggs on my long lashes, beetles like Stukas (or is it Fokkers?) diving into my hairy ears, I helplessly watch several leeches attached to my ankles rapidly taking on a corpulence the colour of the claret. Lady Tourette was recently severely discombobulated to discover one of the little buggers securely attached to her left buttock.

Small, but probably rabid, bats fly dangerously close to my face. Much larger sinister bats, hang like innumerable Christopher Lees from the Sapu trees.

Large frogs hop about eating the flying ants. Coucals and snakes carry away the frogs for supper.

At night, sleep is impossible because of frogs and crickets chirupping away cacophonously throughout the night and unidentifiable creatures (polecats, mongooses, elephants?)  wandering around in the roof space. I am unable to move because the family cat, Minnie the Merciless, sits on my groin like a broody grumpy hen trying to hatch my family jewels. What sounds like something rather large arrives in the ceiling at the same time every night and applies itself assiduously to gnawing away in a determined fashion at the timberwork. I think it may possess a drill. Soon it will consume the electric cable. I am afraid to sleep on my back with my mouth open for fear of what might fall therein. Once there was a frightful clatter and squawking and I found that two huge rats had fallen from the ceiling and were fighting in the kitchen sink.

Frequently there is the patter of tiny feet in the ceiling accompanied by frenzied eeking and a ponderous slithering followed by silence. One day, the shower area was populated by tiny mousicles, each the size of a thumbnail.

True darkness never descends on the bedroom. Fireflies blazon the night, roosting in my hair like stars. It is like trying to get to sleep inside a fully lit Christmas tree.

One of our hounds, Cerberus, I think it was, or maybe Fang, Zoltan or Gnasher, I am not sure, was kicking up an awful row last night. This morning there was a small, chewed-up civet cat on the driveway, by its mouth was a small chewed-up mouse. What did that Irish fellow – Swift was it? – say about ad infinitum?

Dawn breaks with an ecumenical decibelling from various denominations. I think it is the Mosque that starts the competitive cacophony with a call to prayer. Next, the Hindu Kovil joins in with some wailing followed closely by pirith from the Buddhist temple. Bringing up the rear, we have bells from the Anglican Church. All of these are on tape so they can all crank up the volume in their attempts to outdo each other.

Red in tooth and claw, or what?

It is a jungle in here!

 Who is in charge here?