I’VE got termites.
Okay, so the politicians have let the country go to the dogs, the kids of today are on a joy ride to oblivion and terrorists threaten the very fabric of civilisation as we know it.
But I’ve got termites – and they’re threatening the very fabric of my house as I know it.
Frankly, I’d rather have a prime minister making a complete dog’s breakfast of the refugee scene than termites making a termite’s breakfast of my walls.
I came across them by accident. I was hanging a picture and the hammer went through the wall and there they were: thousands — millions — no, billions of the little sods, bustling along like shoppers at the January sales.
They didn’t even stop to say good morning, or excuse me. They’re in there, hunting down bargains in the shape of studwork and window frames and they won’t stop, metaphorically speaking, until every shelf in the store has been emptied of stock.
Or, speaking the language of harsh reality, until I’m standing in a heap of rubble, gibbering the language of the mentally unhinged.
A terminal disease must feel a bit like this: the idea that something nasty is invading your body, even while you’re sleeping, and that eventually you’ll apply a bit too much pressure to a small bit of it, and the whole thing will drop to pieces.
Then I realised that termites are a terminal disease. That’s probably where the name comes from!
Last night I lay awake staring at the ceiling, staring at the walls, knowing they’re in there.
I used to think of my home as my castle. Now I think of it as something out of a Buster Keaton movie. One day I’ll close the door and I’ll be left holding a door knob while the rest of the building evaporates in a cloud of dust.
And, of course, termites.
My wife says it’s not the end of the world. She says we can get people in who deal with termites. But I have a sneaky feeling they’ll do precisely the same thing the termites are doing – tear my house down. And they’ll suck in their breath through their teeth while they’re doing it.
It’s amazing how much money they’ll hoover up in the process.
Maybe it’s good for me. The seasonal bonhomie of Christmas and New Year tend to impart an unrealistic sense of well-being and a complacent affection for the world in general. Over the past couple of weeks one has tended to forgive people – even prime ministers.
But not termites. If I catch one of the little bastards I’m going to make him wish he’d never been born. Not as a termite, anyway.
But then again, he might call his mates, and there are more of them than there are of me. Now I know they’re in there I can actually hear them galloping up the walls and smacking their lips.
Doesn’t take much, does it, to change one’s world view? You think you’re in control of your destiny, and along comes something the size of a toe-nail clipping and suddenly you feel as impotent as… well, a toe-nail clipping.
I’m going back to bed, but how do I know they’re not in that, too?
“Why don’t you go down the pub and forget about it until the pest man arrives,” says my wife.
“Just don’t slam the door on your way out.”