In speaking about the small Italian town of Casteggio and the hotel some 5 Kilometres or so to the south of it, I have mentioned the heat (always peaking during the afternoon in the mid to high 30s), the sunshine (with one small exception, continuous every day) and have clearly implied that it was always warm enough to go swimming in the hotel’s open air pool.
The only negative that I have mentioned concerning the environment is the disgusting smell that used to greet us on opening the car doors in the factory car park each morning! Some of my colleagues thought that there must be a rather inefficient sewage works somewhere nearby but my own experience years back with the, sometimes quirky, effluent plant at Solway Foods convinced me that the smell belonged with the yeast factory!
There was, however, another negative factor that I have deliberately neglected to mention – the insect life!
At breakfast on the first Monday it was painfully obvious that those of us who had been swimming on the Sunday evening and who hadn’t covered up immediately afterwards had been seriously attacked by the local Mosquitoes!
Faces, heads, arms, legs and torsos were universally afflicted with nasty red patches often accompanied by spectacular lumps – one of my colleagues, Engineer 4 (the one who really needed to purchase waterproof cigarettes) looked uncommonly like Darth Maul from Star Wars Episode 1 after only a couple of days.
On Monday evening, while waiting for the go ahead actually to migrate some computers, some of us drove to a supermarket to purchase certain essentials (water, Peroni beer, big bags of Cheesy Wotsits – that sort of thing) and while there also went into the Pharmacy and spent getting on for €20 each on repellent sprays and bite/sting treatments. I think it was the best day that Pharmacist had experienced for years and it cost us nearly double what we spent on those aforementioned “essentials”!
The only trouble was – they didn’t work! Except, that is, for the repellent spray purchased by Engineer 2 which smelled so strongly of Lemons that none of US would go near him. This, at least, prevented us from seeing how many bites he’d got because it didn’t seem to deter the insects one bit!
My own back apparently resembled a “join the dots” picture and this was made worse by the fact that the red bites got sunburned far easier than the rest of me and I can now tell just where they were by looking at the darker brown patches!
While we got used to them after a while it didn’t stop them from stinging us and there were FAR worse things around than the Mosquitoes. There were “ordinary” wasps to contend with, horseflies that carried their sting folded under their bodies and on one of our pool visits a number of Hornets settled on the edge of the pool, apparently to drink. They were at least 2 inches long in the body so none of us wanted to come out of the water and all were prepared to submerge at a moment’s notice while they were there!
“Stamp on it”, someone shouted as I approached one at the poolside while still wearing my trainers!
“No fear” I retorted, “That thing could beat the crap out of me!”
What big cissies we are at heart!
Our British stoicism was, however, displayed on the Saturday when we were all sunbathing by the pool. Helpdesk was sitting up reading while next to him Engineer 4 was laying on his sunbed, catching some rays.
In a very matter of fact voice Helpdesk suddenly said “I don’t mean to alarm you Engineer 4 but a wasp has just flown up your shorts!”
Having delivered this remark he went back to his book leaving his colleague in total confusion and unable to tell if this was true or not. He did not dare take any chances and tried very gently to hold the material of his swimming shorts away from his body. Luckily, after a few seconds a very real wasp did indeed exit down the leg and fly off leaving him none the worse for the experience (although I think bicycle clips or large elastic bands were mentioned as a possible solution to it happening again).
You could always tell, however, when the Mosquitoes were active (they seemed to remain dormant in the hottest part of the day) because of the antics of my colleagues and I. There would be a violent twitch, a jerky slap at the bitten or stung area and an utterance usually along the lines of “Oww! F**k! You little Bastard!”
These symptoms taken together caused us to christen the condition “Mozzie Tourette’s” and it was very strange to watch – especially to the Italians who didn’t get bitten AT ALL!