The Snake

There is a lot of building (redevelopment?  refurbishment??) going on round me, probably because I live in one of those areas in London where people can still afford to buy.

So, sadly, we are suffering from relentless gentrification whereby the well-heeled and/or still in work buy or rent from what we used to call “the lower orders” – the unpublicised losers in our society, the working poor.

Across the road is one of several examples of buying a late Victorian/Edwardian house and gutting it.  Breaks your heart.

But the men doing the work are agreeable and that’s a bonus.  They greet me and to their undying credit, they don’t add an endearment.

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For the last several mornings, skip disposal has arrived at 7.00 or so but this morning, there was a different kind of noise – like shouting but with a laugh in it.

On my way to the bin, I saw a tall man with glasses speaking excitedly into the ubiquitous mobile while a younger man looked on.  I asked what was the matter.

“It’s a snake” said Specs, gesturing.

“I should call the council” I said.  “They usually take about three months.”

“No” he said, into the phone. “I am not going to touch it.”

“There are no poisonous snakes in Britain” I explained.  “It’s probably a grass snake.”

“Then why is it pink?”

“I don’t know” I said, beginning to laugh. “Maybe it’s albino or immature, maybe it’s a glow worm.  I don’t know much about snakes.   Is it in your way?  Where do you want it?”

“You’re not going to touch it?”  he frowned.   I said we could put it in a bin.

“Look” he said as it coiled and reared “it’s going to strike you.”

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Heaven bless Marigold gloves.  I am rather scared of snakes but I have seen enough of The Deadly Sixty on children’s television to know that I have to grasp it behind the head with one hand and just above the tail with the other.  If I can’t feel it, I can distance myself from the fear.   I only managed to touch one once when a friend from the Peace Corps turned up with three pythons of varying sizes – I didn’t like the sensation –  and then I was chiefly worried about the cat whom I could see was a frightening focus of attention for the snakes, if not a finally a meal.

So I picked up the snake whom I referred to as George Osborne and we put it in a bin with the lid on.   And the tall man with glasses started calling the RSPCA because he wanted it released where it would be safe.   I hoped we’d be safe too.

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“If it’s in your way, I could put it in a plastic bag” I offered.

“No, no” he said.  “It’s a creature.”

Indeed.

“And I used to have a girlfriend who had a ten foot Burmese python, I used to walk round naked with it round me.”

As you do.

I caught the eye of the younger man who had been watching all this, who grinned wisely and developed something else that had to be done.

“And anyway I believe in the God” – interesting turn of phrase, only common in more imaginative writing.  “And karma.”   Fine.   “But you’re a brave woman …”

This is nothing – I think – compared to sharing my flat for five days with a hysterical squirrel (whether hysterical by temperament or just because it couldn’t find the way out, I am not to know) for which I still have trap, lure and gloves from thetrapman.com and, once it had defecated everywhere and hidden, I lured out through lack of water and flaked almonds.  The kitchen window was open, an old towel wadded to make a bridge and the nuts led out.   I went to lunch praying and it left me.   A bite from a feral animal is not high on my list of things to do.

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Poor snake, perhaps it had a problem …

An hour later I hear that it has been identified by an expert as an African king snake, quite venomous – though as my enemies will tell you, had it bitten me – it would have died.

One response to “The Snake

  1. Another good blog annna

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