In early 2011, I was back in the city for a few days for work when Nigel called from the island to report – quite chirpily – that a moth had crawled into his ear one night while he was lying in bed reading.

He said it was the most horrible sensation; that a moth inserted into a person’s ear could be used as a torture technique. He’d managed after a bit of experimenting to stop the moth flapping in his ear by pouring baby oil into his ear and drowning it.

He was quite upbeat about the whole incident and I thought it was rather funny. I laughed. Probably too much.

And then there’s a thing called karma.

On the island, a month or so later, I was reading in bed at night, and suddenly there was this terrible scratching noise in my left ear. I knew instantly what it was – a moth. It felt as though its wings were flapping against my brain; it was that loud and that sensitive. I scratched at my ear, but of course, the moth was right inside my HEAD. I couldn’t get to it. I began swearing like the most saltiest of old sailors, words I didn’t even know I knew, and rushed helplessly to the bathroom, scratching at my ear. Nigel realised instantly what had happened and followed me, and quickly grabbed some baby oil and tipped my head on an angle and without a word, poured baby oil into my ear.

The flapping, scratching inside my head stopped. Peace. I swore a bit more.

I could now understand what Nigel meant about torture.

A moth in ones ear is the most excruciating unpleasant experience; it is so amplified against the inner most of your ear, against your brain but you cannot touch it. Pain, frustration and irritation in one.

But the saga wasn’t over yet.

Both of us experienced deafness and sore ears (and crankiness to the highest levels) over the next month or so. We were heading for divorce fast and we weren’t even married.

I googled for advice on “moth in your ear” – and most of it was along the lines of shine a torch in your ear and grab it by its mothballs.

We tried self-doctoring as you do on an island. And self-anaesthetising (wine). We were snapping at each other, the weather was cloudy and muggy – surely changing the pressure in our ears.

Every little noise was annoying; the flies, the noise of the generator, the gull chicks and their keening noises on the lawn out the front, Nigel breathing aaaaarrrgghhh.

Finally Nigel succumbed to the pain and gave in and called the doctors clinic on the next island for an appointment –for the next day, a Friday.

Friday arrives – and I cave, and also make an appointment. (“Yes my partner has called already and we could probably share an appointment – we both have moths in our ears”).

The water was pretty choppy and I was a bit nervous about taking the RIB (Rubber Inflatable) boat. Nigel takes the boat for a spin first – and it won’t start… and it won’t start…there are tears of pain and frustration (and that was Nigel); time was running out to make another appointment at the doctors.

I rebook our appointment for the next morning – luckily the doctors are having their ONCE a MONTH Saturday morning surgery the next day.

I don’t think we would have coped waiting a couple more days.

On Saturday we head over to the next Island in the big boat – and the water is calm… like silk.

We arrive at the clinic early – we are not going to miss our appointment. We finally see the doctor together. Obviously our story was causing great hilarity at the surgery and they’d been wagering how we both had come to have moths in our ears. The doctor was onto it however, as soon as I said we were reading in bed, and the moth was in my left ear, and Nigel’s was in his right ear. Nigel could now legitimately ignore me if I was standing on his right talking to him.

The doctor tells us he only experiences this type of incident (insect in ear) once in a couple of years. So we’ve doubled his quota in one hit. The last insect he extracted from someone’s ear was a cockroach…. Eeewwww. Now I’m glad we only have moths in our ears.

Our ears were to be flushed out by the nurse. So we waited in the nurses room – and entertained ourselves (as only isolated Island people let loose can), by weighing ourselves, measuring our heights, testing our eyes on the eye chart…. luckily we were interrupted before Nigel saw the oxygen.

We were on a “those damn moths in our ears will soon be gone” induced high.

The nurse was lovely; she was patient – and tolerant of our high spirits. Even when she squirting water in my ear and Nigel said he could see the water dribbling out my other ear, she laughed. She even let Nigel look in both my ears with the fancy instrument. (Nigel had a hankering to be a doctor). Nigel reported my good ear looked like the inside of a lovely clean shell; but the bad, mothy ear looked like a sandy, crusty old hermit crab. The nurse agreed.

After much squirting water into my ear nothing is happening and I’m feeling woozy so it was Nigel’s turn. Then the doctor arrives as there are queues forming for the nurse. The doctor squirts water in my ear – much more forcibly than the nurse and the moth is expelled almost straight away – seemingly still intact – after four weeks – amazing! My ear is still blocked though, probably from inflammation.

Then it’s Nigel’s turn and bits of moth float out of his ear. Unblocked!

Next we’re off to the chemist for drugs to deal with the inflammation in our ears.

Nigel bounces back straight away, while I had two more visits to the doctor where my ear is suctioned.

For months afterwards my ear still feels blocked. But that’s as good as it’s going to get.

Months and even years later, as soon as I’m feeling under the weather or run down, my left ear starts to ache, much like a barometer.

Footnote: We moved the light from above our bed to a higher position (and used a mosquito net when reading).