Let me introduce you to one of Joburg's creepier residents. The King Cricket, I believe originally a native of New Zealand that snuck into the country in a consignment of building sand, made itself at home and multiplied, greatly. It first reared its nodding little head in numbers in a suburb called Parktown, hence it's local name, the Parktown Prawn. This guy, the first I've seen now for some years, I found yesterday drowned in our swimming pool, a much more appealing discovery than some of the places P.P's have cropped up in days gone by.
In our previous house, we suffered a plague of them. They appeared climbing up curtains, grinding along your pillow, in every corner of every room, and worst of all, the telltale brown whiskers - if you were lucky - waved at you from under the rim of the toilet, warning you not to take that particular seat at that time. The shreiks and squeals they generated were quite out of proportion to their size, though their size, for an insect, is enormous - a bit bigger than how they appear on this page. The thought of their heavy, spiney bodies near your hair or neck or children was too awful to contemplate and the rasping military sound they made as they marched across the carpet could wake me from the deepest sleep to save my family from the beast.
A delightful trait it has when you try to corner or capture it, as soon as it becomes aware of your intentions, is to leap lumpily about, usually in your general direction and squirt a stream of foul-smelling black liquid from its rear end. The only way to catch it is to creep up from behind and grab one of its back legs - we had a special pair of long 'Prawn Tongs' for this purpose - which it somehow seemed oblivious to as you carried it gingerly to the loo and made triply sure it was well and truly flushed away - with a dose of Harpic for good measure.
The good news is, that just when we and all of Joburg were reaching hysteria about the Prawn problem, along came the Hadeda Ibises, flying in like avenging angels from the Eastern Cape. They found the P.P's delectable and gobbled and gobbled until now - a hapless prawn in the swimming pool is an oddity and becomes the subject of some detached sketching and reminiscing. Thank you dear big birds, your 4.30am siren call is forgiven.