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Archive for the ‘Snakes’ Category

 

three-snakes

I had another snake in my little 2-storey apartment the other day. It’s the weirdest thing. For twenty years I’ve lived here and never had a problem with snakes — except for the night the python came looking to make a meal out of my old cat, who was sleeping near the back door. https://danielledevalera.wordpress.com/2012/12/11/quoth-the-raven-nevermore/

To have two in six weeks is strange. See: https://danielledevalera.wordpress.com/2017/01/11/snake/ This one I found at 4 o’clock in the afternoon at the bottom of the internal staircase. I’d locked the cat in with me from 2 -4 to prevent him hunting and bringing them in while I was having my cuppa-tea-and-a-lie-down. I can only conclude that I must have inadvertently locked the snake in with us when I came back from the beach and shut the doors at two.

A sobering thought.

Whether it was the same snake, come looking for more skinks (they live under my stove), I’m not sure. It certainly looked the same. Same size, six feet, same colour, black. Fortunately, he eventually slid out just the way the other one did, sailing out through the front door, which I’d opened wide for him. But I had a few bad moments before that: I’d lost sight of him when I went to look for a bucket to catch him in. That’s the hard bit. You come back, the snake’s disappeared and you don’t know where it is. All I could do was sit on the sofa in my living room and wait, like the woman in Henry Lawson’s short story, “The Drover’s Wife”.

Henry Lawson

Henry Lawson

In that story, which appears in his collection, While the Billy Boils https://www.amazon.com/While-Billy-Boils-Henry-Lawson/dp/141919383X the woman, seeing a large snake go into the slab hut she and the four children live in (her husband is away six to eighteen months at a time, droving), sets down a saucer of milk and waits through the night for the snake to appear so she can kill it.

Compared to the drover’s wife, I had it easy. But I’m faced with a quandary now. I’ll have to start keeping the front door closed when I’m out and keeping the cat flap closed, even when I’m home. The old cat has been coming and going through the front door for fourteen years. It worries me that he might be chased by one of the many loose dogs in South Golden Beach, run for the safety of his door and find it shut. But I don’t like the idea of six-foot black snakes sailing around the place whenever they feel like it, and I hate the idea of encountering one at night. I seem to have no option. The snake repellers on the internet have opponents and proponents. I’ll probably try one. In the meantime, I hope to retrain the cat to use the back door only, but I don’t like my chances.

(For reasons I can’t explain, this post is showing up strangely, even though it’s written as usual in 12 pt TNR in the original document and nothing untoward is showing in the WordPress menu. Another internet mystery. These little things are sent to try us.)

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Here in the sub-tropics, a mile from the Queensland border, it’s all pretty laid-back. Flouting council laws, many denizens of my suburb like to let their dogs run loose — I’ve had to cut a hole in the front and back screen doors so my cats can get inside when the dogs chase them. For the same reason, I can’t lock the glass doors when I’m out during the day. Last week, I’d just come home from town and changed into my everyday rags when it oozed out from under the fridge.

Three feet. Four feet. Five feet. Six.

A black snake.

black-snake

I was barefooted, as I always am in summer. The snake was three feet away. Fortunately, it was only 1 o’clock in the afternoon, noon if you’re not on Daylight Saving Time. What you don’t want is to find yourself with a snake loose in the house when night comes down. The electric lights throw shadows, and it’s much harder to see under furniture etc.

What to do? I’d had snakes in the house before. My now-old cat used to bring them in when he was young. Once on a visit my daughter inadvertently took a shower with a yellow-bellied black. Apparently, the cat had brought him in, taken him upstairs and lost him. The snake had then concealed himself behind a pot plant in the shower recess. My daughter’s screams when she saw him halfway through her shower could’ve woken heaven. All these snakes I’ve managed to catch by upending an empty bucket over them, sliding an unwanted  vinyl record in its cover under the bucket, inverting it, and placing a weight over it. After that, it’s a simple matter of walking to the nature reserve with the snake in the bucket and releasing it.

As luck would have it, all the buckets were outside, full of water. I nicked out thru the front door, leaving the sliding door open and rushed back with an emptied bucket. If I could just get it over the snake, I figured, I could take my time after that.

I returned just in time to see the last foot of black tail disappearing into a rolled-up hall runner lying on the living room floor. Well, I thought, if I could block the ends, that would give me time to think how to get him into the bucket from there. And maybe get some help — though on the three occasions in the past I’ve had snakes in the house, I’ve dealt with them alone; my neighbours are mostly women.

Fortunately, black snakes are more obliging than browns, one variety of which, the tigers, will attack you if you disturb them during the mating season. While I was trying to block one end of the hall runner with books, I noticed a snake sliding under the bookcase and slithering out the wide-open front door.

Was it the same snake? It looked like the same snake. As Gertrude Stein would have said, “A snake is a snake, is a snake.”

gertrude-stein Gertrude Stein

Or were there two, and I still had the other in the hall runner? I dragged the hall runner out of the apartment, all the while wondering if another snake was going to appear from the unplugged end. But there was nothing.

Why it happened took me a while to figure out. In twenty years of living here, I’ve never had a snake come in of its own volition, except for the python that came in thru the back door one night a couple of years ago, see: https://danielledevalera.wordpress.com/2012/12/11/quoth-the-raven-nevermore/

Apparently, snakes eat skinks, and I had a family of these striped lizards living under my refrigerator. (When you can’t have proper screen doors, these things happen.)

skink

They’re very handsome, and quite intelligent, and they like to eat the food the cat leaves behind, a form of al fresco dining. Perhaps the snake came across the skink when it was outside taking the air after lunch and, when it fled to the safety of the refrigerator, the snake followed it inside. That’s all I can figure.

Getting rid of the skinks will not be easy; I don’t want to kill them. Now, whenever I return from somewhere, I always do a check of the apartment. However, I’m very aware that these checks can only go so far. I’m keeping a wary eye on the floor at all times.

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“O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!” * It’s Boxing Day. Christmas is over for another year, and I couldn’t be happier. Celebrating a winter solstice festival in the middle of the Australian summer is no picnic. ‘Tis a wearisome business, more like hard work.

Boxing Day 2

The toads are out, drunken bogans are in plague proportions, and the ants have organised themselves into raiding parties – they seem particularly fond of cat food. In the horror run-up to Christmas, we drip with sweat as we rip open cards showing snow scenes while the thermometer climbs into the 40s and the radio dispenses songs about chestnuts roasting on open fires, and sleigh bells — most of us have never seen a chestnut or heard  a sleigh bell, but there y’ go. ‘Tis the season for psychosis, tra la la la la, la la la la.

I had been going to celebrate the arrival of Boxing Day by taking the cats into the torn-apart-and-put-together study tonight and watching a little junk TV while I mended my rags, but I’ve discovered the TV is on the blink. I haven’t seen any TV since The Great Python Debacle of 5th December (see previous blog), when I was forced to leave the study so precipitously; all I’ve done since is make one-hour sorties into the room to keep in touch with people on the net, clean, and throw out the things that had  accumulated under the stairs in the last 14 years — old computers, keyboards, printers, scanners, plus mucho miscellaneous stuff, and empty boxes I thought would come in handy sometime, you know the syndrome.

It’s impossible to get a tech to the house at this time of year so I must go on contenting myself with radio. At least, they’ve stopped playing Christmas songs. I’ve had a horror of Christmas since I fell ill with diptheria when I was 18 months old and spent the whole Christmas fighting for my life in a hospital bed. In those days (we’re talking millions of years ago, tiny cats), parents weren’t allowed into the wards on the grounds that their leaving at the end of visiting time would upset the children. Ho. Instead, the children had to contend with what must have seemed to them (it certainly seemed so to me) like total abandonment by everyone they had ever trusted and loved. Every so often, to provide some light relief from my misery, three strangers, dressed all in white and wearing masks, would come into my room, hold me down and paint my throat. Merry Christmas, Kid.

To change the subject, lately I’ve become possessed of some kind of death ray for electrical objects. Show me anything that runs on electricity and I can disable it. Currently, my washing machine is playing up, the TV won’t work, my computer is taking 15 minutes to access documents or the net and, last week, when I went to iron the dress I’d bought for my daughter for Christmas, the iron blew up! Partly, I suppose, it’s the result of living so near the sea, but I’m convinced that it’s also partly me. It’s an expensive quality to have: a veritable parade of technicians will be required to put this place back into working order. But all that is days away; you couldn’t get a tech today if your life depended on it. They’ve all turned off their mobiles, the better to enjoy their hangovers — them and the rest of Australia. Now we are in the beautiful hiatus that comes between Christmas and New Year. No need to worry about plans and how to implement them in the coming year, no need to struggle to fulfil expectations, yours or anyone else’s; just a beautiful seven days in which to recover from what my daughter calls ‘the season of psychosis’.

I do love Boxing Day. And the icing on the cake is — it’s raining.

May 2013 bring you your heart’s desire.

* Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland.

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For years now, in summer I’ve slept in the downstairs bedroom of my 2-storey apartment with the back sliding door to the garden jammed open a few inches for coolness. Around 1 a.m. the perfume from the white ginger blossoms blooming near the steps would start to filter inside, and along with it would come beautifully cool, dew laden air. After the insane heat of the day, it was like being touched by the hand of God.

Quoth the raven, “Nevermore.”

A few nights ago, as I was watching an episode of The Mentalist on TV, I was distracted by the strange behaviour of my younger cat Tim, who was sitting on top of the air cooler near the back door. He kept looking down at the floor between the cooler and the door, and back to me. As time went on, he grew more and more agitated. Suddenly, he leapt to his feet and puffed himself up. I thought it must be the tom from across the road, come to torment him: Ha ha, look at you, what a pansy, to have to be locked in at night!

But instead of rushing forward — Tim’s neutered, but he likes a good fight, I’ve got the vet bills to prove it — Tim came back to me.

He looked horrified.

Now this is a cat that has brought in six-foot-long pythons in the past, and once, a yellow-bellied black of about five feet, which my daughter, up on holidays from Melbourne, inadvertently took a shower with. Says I to myself, If Tim’s horrified, maybe I should be horrified too. I jumped to my feet to close the back door against the rabid dog, vengeful tom, whatever, but when the sliding door reached three inches, I hit an obstruction. The door wouldn’t close any further.

What was stopping it? I couldn’t see. The only light was behind me and the air cooler threw a shadow into the space between it and the back door, and my eyes aren’t very good, anyway. I peered over, still holding the door as shut as I could.

This isn't me! It's Tanya BennettPhoto by Manly Daily, n.d.

This isn’t me! It’s Tanya Bennett
Photo by Manly Daily, n.d.

The python raised his head and looked up at me, a sort of: What are you doing? look. Python? Correction, make that humungous python, one of the biggest I’d ever seen, already halfway into the room. He had come for the old cat who was sleeping on the corner of the bed near the back door. I grabbed both cats and flung them into the living room, snatched up my mobile phone, turned off the TV and fled. I closed the door that led from the study to the rest of the apartment, and jammed the space underneath with a length of wood held in place with two heavy pot plants.

Now I’ve lived with pythons before, always against my will, mind you. There was one in the ceiling of the house I moved into in the bush in 1978. But he was a gentleman, he had guidelines. He never came down to hunt mice and bush rats until after nine at night when I and the children were safely tucked up in bed. (With no car, no phone and no power, there was little to do in the bush once the sun went down.) This South Golden Beach python was singularly lacking in manners.

The wildlife people came out next day, but they couldn’t find him. Perhaps, they said, he went back out in the night through the back door I’d left open for him. Perhaps, perhaps … The back room leads to a space under the stairs crammed with things I’ve accumulated over the last 14 years, he could have been anywhere there among the boxes.

But they thought he’d gone, so I locked the back door into the garden and rang for a repairman for the back screen door. I also needed a screen door for my upstairs bedroom; I’d had no screen door upstairs for years – with a mosquito net over the bed, I’d never felt the need of one. Now I did! This place is subtropical, surrounded by lush vegetation and big trees, the python could easily get into my upstairs bedroom unless I kept the glass sliding door closed, which turns the room into an inferno in summer.

And there the situation stands. I come in here to work on the computer for an hour or so a day, and I’ve begun to clear out under the stairs, a job that was more that overdue. But I won’t let the cats in here until I’ve completely torn the place apart. I’ve lost cats to pythons before, it’s not a nice experience.

All up, the event produced some good outcomes: I get two much needed screen doors, and the back bedroom gets its first really good going-over in 14 years. I’m all set for whatever the Mayan calendar cares to throw at me.

Now it’s on to sorting through the 35 years of papers I’ve been carrying around, and the 14 years of useless objects I’ve collected while my head was stuck in a computer, writing.

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Like the American Indian narrator of that fine book One Flew Over the Cuckoos’ Nest says at the end of the novel, “I’ve been away a long time”.  Things have been happening here.

First, the landlord decided to replace the living room carpet in my little 2-storey broom cupboard 300 metres from the Pacific; the carpet had come with the building thirty-five years ago. Everyth piece of furniture in the room had to be emptied and the furniture carried outside. This was followed by an orgy of washing 12 years of dust off the furniture – writers aren’t renowned for their housekeeping. After the new carpet had been laid I discovered that the LL had chosen a carpet shade so dark it’s like living on a bitumen road. I have to stop myself from looking left and right when I cross the room): Perhaps it was on special.

Then my male cat bought in Snake No. 3 (it’s Spring over here in beautiful, downtown Australia). He likes to take them into the bathroom upstairs, figuring the shower recess is the best place for an interrogation and easy for me to hose down afterwards. BUT this one was larger than the previous two and he lost it halfway up the internal staircase. I couldn’t do the bucket trip I’d applied in the bathroom scenario on the previous two occasions and had to resort to waiting until the snake  reached the living room floor and corralling it with a straw In basket, held down by an antique flat iron; these were the only things to hand at the time. What to do next? That took some thinking. I managed to slide an old Barry Manilow vinyl record cover under the In basket and then transfer the whole lot to a giant garbage bag which I carried down to the canal. The captive looked none the worse for wear when I released him – standing well back and retrieving the various items afterwards. He made for the water and I made my way home with tips for writers the last thing on my mind.

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