June 8th, 2012

  • brni

What Is It Like To Be A Cockroach? - a guest post by Juliet Kemp

Today we have a guest post from Juliet Kemp, who tells us a bit about the making of her story, Skitterings in Corners (a story which is, as of yesterday, available here in PDF format for those who prefer reading on their e-readers).


Attitudes to insects, like attitudes to anything else, vary in different parts of the world. A couple of years ago, I lived in Sydney, Australia for six months. On the second day in my tiny-but-perfectly-formed new flat, I flipped on the kitchen light and saw a small brown cockroach scuttle across the counter and down the back of the cooker. I freaked out. Even in my student days, I never lived anywhere with roaches. Slugs, ants, mice, yes; roaches never. I was halfway through deciding to ignore my vegan guilt and buy some poison, when I mentioned it to an Aussie friend, who looked a bit puzzled.

"Just a couple of the little brown ones? Well, yeah, you will have a few of them."

Cockroaches in Sydney, apparently, are a bit like spiders in the UK; you'll have a few however house-proud you are, and you'll never get rid of them altogether so may as well just to learn to live with them. I never became entirely acclimatised to them, but I did learn to cope (albeit with a lot of squirming) with trapping them under a glass. And I always checked for passers-by below before I threw them out of the window.

I used to envisage them hanging out in the corners of the kitchen, living their little roachy lives in there just like I was living my human one out in the middle of the room. Inevitably, it reminded me of Thomas Nagel's famous essay 'What Is It Like To Be A Bat?". As a card-carrying materialist, I disagree almost entirely with his conclusions (I prefer Daniel Dennett's approach), but the title has stuck with me ever since I first read it as a philosophy student. A while later, after I was safely back in the UK, Skitterings in Corners crept out of those dark mental crevices.


Juliet Kemp is a freelance writer from London, UK. She blogs at julietkemp.com, often about growing things.