Street Life: Horror that lurked in my dream kitchen

SAMOTECHNY LANE

I SHOULD have known better than to let him in. For, as the old Flanders and Swann song warns, once you let a workman into your home, you can expect a disaster that will require corrective measures from another clumsy workman and so on ad infinitum.

I was not thinking of this when the doorbell rang and a bearded dwarf in a fluorescent orange jacket announced that he was a safety inspector from Mosgaz, the Moscow branch of the gas board. Rather, my initial reaction was to be pleased that someone was paying attention to safety in a country where buildings regularly collapse in gas explosions. I was even ready to forgive him for tramping across my hall carpet in filthy boots.

"Tut, tut, tut," he said after glancing cursorily around the kitchen, "I am going to have to fine you." The on-off switch for the gas mains was not immediately visible and he accused me of having walled it up behind my "Euro-remont", as the Russians call any fitted kitchen or other home improvement executed to West European standards. "A lot of people do this when they have their fancy kitchens put in," he said, sneering. "Well, let me tell you, it's illegal. The switch should be accessible."

I was reasonably confident that my switch was accessible, only I could not immediately put my finger on it. Before I managed to find it, tactfully hidden at the back of a cupboard, the poisonous little man was unscrewing the white panels that make up the washable walls of my "Finnish-style" kitchen.

Now I must admit that I have had the odd cockroach in my home. In Britain, this would be as bad as admitting that I never wash or have some other disgusting personal habits but in Russia everybody suffers from cockroaches. When one person poisons them, they crawl to the neighbouring flat and seek asylum there.

However, when the panels came off, it became clear that here were more than one or two cockroaches. My "hygienic" kitchen was just a Potemkin Euro-remont, a facade like the cardboard villages that Potemkin built for Catherine the Great to convince her that the provinces were flourishing.

In the gap between the facade and the original wall, there was a heaving nest of cockroaches, as in the film Alien. Just as I made this discovery, the gas man satisfied himself that the on-off switch at the back of the cupboard was in order and announced: "Everything's fine then, sorry to have troubled you, I'll be off." As he exited, leaving more dusty footprints on the carpet and the liberated insects to overrun the kitchen, he added: "That's a nasty cockroach problem you've got there."

In the past, I have tried various products to get rid of cockroaches. I bought some white powder from the market but my cat only rolled in it and went crazy, as if he had snorted cocaine, while the intended victims multiplied. A friend gave me some special Chinese chalk, with which I was supposed to mark the walls, but the impudent cockroaches were so indifferent to this that they actually nested inside the chalk box.

Now matters were serious and I was going to have to call in a professional exterminator. My husband suggested "Vicious Vlad", a punk rock singer whose day job is vanquishing vermin. He arrived with canisters of highly poisonous chemical spray and said that, after I had emptied the cupboards, it would be advisable if the cat and I stayed the night somewhere else.

Dr Death did his job but, like all workmen, he failed to clean up after himself. When I came home the next morning, the kitchen floor looked like a battlefield, strewn with corpses and a few limply struggling survivors. It was so foul, it was fascinating.

"Die, die," I intoned as I crushed the last of the living and swept up all the bodies into a bin-liner. The grim thought struck me that, in just the same way, the gods will deal with all of us.

I was satisfied. My kitchen was clean. The cockroaches would be back, of course, to make a sequel to the horror film. But the surviving insects would escape now to the neighbours and it was they who would have to cope with the endless consequences of the gasman coming to call.

Suggested Topics
News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Travel
Bruce Chatwin's novel 'On the Black Hill' was set at The Vision Farm
travelOne of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
Sport
footballManchester City 1 Roma 1: Result leaves Premier League champions in danger of not progressing
Arts and Entertainment
Gay and OK: a scene from 'Pride'
filmsUS film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
News
i100
Life and Style
Magic roundabouts: the gyratory system that has excited enthusiasts in Swindon
motoringJust who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
booksWell it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Commercial Litigation NQ+

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE NQ to MID LEVEL - An e...

MANCHESTER - SENIOR COMMERCIAL LITIGATION -

Highly Attractive Pakage: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - A highly attractive oppor...

Senior Marketing Manager - Central London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (Campaigns, Offlin...

Head of Marketing - Acquisition & Direct Reponse Marketing

£90000 - £135000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing (B2C, Acquisition...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?