There is a lot of negative talk about the spiders and snakes of Australia. In fact whenever they are mentioned, it’s not long before the “death” word appears in the conversation. This is something that does not happen in the UK. It is very rare that spiders and death crop up in the same sentence or that snakes are even mentioned at all in the UK.
Most people in the UK think this is a big advantage and how wonderful it is to live in a country where spiders and snakes just don’t kill people. It makes them feel safe, they feel they can relax.
Living in Australia, I look at it like this. When I am doing the gardening, I am alert, when I enter an old abandoned house, I am alert, if I go into the loft, I am alert. Generally speaking because spiders and snakes here can hurt and possibly kill, I am alert.
This state of alertness spreads throughout my life and I feel alive being alert. This alertness spreads into other areas like crossing the road, carrying a piano up the stairs or entering a strange pub full of bearded men with hats.
And what is the price I pay for this additional alertness that was not so necessary in the UK? It is, apparently, that I may die at the mouth of a snake or spider. Yet the reality is nobody has died in this country of a spider bite since 1979. Snakes kill two people a year, or less, on average. Of those, at least half would not have died if they hadn’t tried to take on the snake. Backing off works.
So spiders and snakes do not scare me or unduly trouble my life here. On top of that we do not seem to get much road rage here and the idea of being stabbed whilst you are standing in a supermarket queue is pretty alien in these parts. But if someone did come at me with a knife in Coles, I would probably be alert to it. Thanks to spiders and snakes.
I will tell you what does scare me though, taking a lonely walk, late at night, in South London or any of a hundred or so other districts I could list for you. I stopped doing that years ago! But I love walking around anywhere here. Wildlife doesn’t look for trouble.
Spiders: A Short Story.
I had parked my car in Kenmore to get some beer at the bottle –o. When I got back into my car I drove about 50 yards before stopping at some traffic lights.
From the roof of my car a spider appeared and ran across the windscreen. For a heart stopping moment, because it was a big spider, I was trying to work out whether it was inside or outside the screen.
Thankfully it was outside.
But he ran down the screen and seemed to disappear through the grill and into the engine compartment. I was still sitting at the lights, and I now try to work out if this rather large spider was going to make its way through the air-conditioning, through a hole where the pedals go at the bottom, or underneath the dashboard, or anyway it can find to get inside the car.
After what seemed a long time, the lights changed. My cunning plan was to drive fast so that wherever this spider was under my bonnet, it would have one massive task on its hands, sorry legs, to stop himself being blown away.
So, drive fast I did for the whole 10 km until I arrived at my destination. To my shock, the very second I pulled up and parked, this huge spider reappeared from the exact same spot it had disappeared, centre of the base of the windscreen by the grill to the engine, and ran real quick up the windscreen and back onto the roof.
You have never seen somebody shut two car windows so fast! There are just too many places a spider can hide inside a car.
In truth, I was relieved to see him again and to know he wasn’t inside the car. My guess is he jumped off as quickas he could, in fact as quick as he had jumped onto the car 10k ago, probably from the tree I had parked under, back in Kenmore.
But I wasn’t scared. As I said earlier…. “spiders and snakes do not scare me or unduly trouble my life here” – honest!
Snakes: An Even Shorter Story.
If you think snakes ARE dangerous, consider the plight of the orangutan. For many centuries the orangutan’s worst enemy were the snakes of the jungles of Borneo. But then man came along and now the orangutan is almost extinct.
So if you think snakes are scary, think again. Perhaps you can ponder that as you stroll those streets of South London late at night.
Next week, in Australian Bad Things, I reveal the biggest baddest thing of all AND tell you the story of how this very bad Australian thing invaded my home. Oh, and this thing does kill people. Don’t miss it!