Tuesday, 21 February 2012


I wouldn't have you think I'm an ill-ntempered sort of chap. From time to time, it has been suggested that I am but it's just the fall of my face and what Nature and Time have done to its contours. No, I am normally really tolerant...to a fault I might say.

But I must get my sleep and some nights here it's difficult..

Take last night...an errant mosquito penetrated the defences of the netted doors and windows and bit me on the arm. It’s not the first bite I’ve suffered here and I have to say they are not as bad as some I’ve occasionally had in Europe. Even so, my legs at times have the dramatic effect of a Turner sunset and they itch like hell. I have been regularly using a spray on my legs and arms. It makes great claims, this stuff, to keeping mosquitoes at bay but apparently the mosquitoes cannot read. Certainly last night's couldn't.

But it’s the dogs who are the real menace with their incessant barking all night. They are all yard dogs. I don’t think they ever get into their owners' houses. They’re mostly lean and pale or gingery and they're content to walk along the roadside or along the middle of the road where they stop from time to time to scratch their fleas and lick their behinds in a world-weary sort of way. They manage to avoid cars with the slightest insouciant twitch of the hips and they’re away, escaping wheels and bumpers by a hair’s breadth. But it’s at night when they’re skulking round the home territory that they begin their constant yelps and screeches and barks. Then, just before dawn their shift ends and the cockerels start up.

These blasted birds continue for what seems an eternity. There’s only one which seems to merit an audition to introduce Pathe News (as was, but ask your Granny if you don't get the reference), only one out of what seems like hundreds who sounds at all in his right avian mind. So many of the others sound quite deranged, many as if they are suffering from a form of Tourette’s disease which obliges them to shriek at very short intervals the words 'Dirty bastards.' On and on it goes, the loonies echoing each other way down the road and God knows how far beyond but the sound comes doubling back so that I feel like shouting at them, 'Shut up, you silly buggers.' But I know what they’d say in reply.

I wonder if some of them aren’t punch-drunk veterans of the local cockpit. We saw some the other day being caged, jaunty enough looking chaps with fine handsomely coloured feathers and proud upstanding tails, but each one I suspect with a mad gleam in his eye and looking forward to the next championship bout. It wouldn't be surprising if they were unhinged. Their owners or trainers, for these birds are professional ring-craftsmen, cosset them like babies, stroking them, smoothing their feathers and generally pampering them. But they must - the birds, that is – be quite astonished when clouds of tobacco smoke are blown in their faces. This is said to made them mean-tempered, just what is thought to be necessary in a ring-ready bird. The ones that lose the fights - fought with razor blades tied to the legs - return home oven-ready.

All of this nocturnal hubbub of dogs and cockerels, in this rural hideaway, is played out against a ceaseless background of traffic noise, particularly from motorcycles and tricycles tuned to sound sometimes like farting wasps. At other times huge lorries race down the road, sounding like Jumbo jets preparing to land just outside the front door.

This is in rural Luzon. If it were sprawling MetroManila I'd understand it but here we're in a land of beautiful trees, farms and rice fields of the most delicate shades of green. It would be heaven if it weren't for the night noise. And don't start me on when the women in the family get together talking, you'd think, through loud hailers...

A VIRGIN IN THE PHILIPPINES by WH Johnson will be published as an e-book in the next few weeks.

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