“Вы видели тараканов еще?”
I looked up, confused. I had shaken my landlord’s hand many times by this point, but this was the first time our greeting had been accompanied by these four words.
“Have you seen any cockroaches yet?”
I turned to my passing translator, then back to my landlord. In one single utterance he had completely and irreparably altered my perceptions of my accommodation. I’d rather he’d asked if I’d seen any ghosts.
That was three weeks or so ago, as we relocated the school to the new premises. I told him that I had not, no, but I’d be sure to let him know if I did. That evening I returned home to investigate every nook and cranny of my flat for traces of wiggly wildlife.
I haven’t had the best of luck with infestations, you see. While other people seem to move from bug-free zone to bug-free zone, I — along with my poor, unlucky flatmates — seem to move without exception from one writhing ecosystem to another.
First there were student halls, a concrete (lack of) concentration camp on the outskirts of Aberdeen. While other university societies had mascots and icons, we at Hillhead Halls Of Residence had silverfish. Lots and lots of silverfish.
Leaving halls behind with four of my cohorts, my next flat — a sizeable five-bedroom affair just off of George Street — was cursed with carpet beetles. After months of blissful ignorance, we returned home after some holiday or other to find one of our number digging into the carpets with a fork. They were everywhere.
Next was a more expensive (and considerably smaller) flat nearer work and further from campus. I had moved in with a colleague and somewhat desperately hoped that the two dead woodlice found in a drawer in the bottom of the fridge was a one-off. Needless to say that this was not the case. Not when the sun inevitably set, anyway.
Hoping that we’d left the creepy crawlies behind, we relocated to Edinburgh in search of a fresh start. While our flat was indeed insect-free, we soon realised that there were worst things to share your kitchen with than a few tiny slaters. I came home one evening to find my flatmate in a panic; we had mice.
Therefore, I wasn’t exactly surprised to discover that this trend had followed me all the way to Russia. And for three weeks I went about my business all-but convinced that it had been some sort of false alarm. Alas, while boiling the kettle last night and clutching my empty hot-water-bottle to my chest, I noticed something small and slithery scuttle into hole in the wall.
With less than one week to go, however, I’ve decided to let the little critter be. After all, he’s quieter than the tiger, and if the world does end this coming Friday he can have the place all to himself.