Monday 19 August 2013

Zero to eight

There's an Australian trip coming up soonish and I was thinking about the various multi-legged encounters I've had there, over the years. As you do. It was while I was walking, and of course all I saw here were two-legged creatures, human and avian - but in Oz you get the full range from zero to eight. Or more, if you count things like centipedes, but that's just silly, what are you thinking?
So zero of course means snakes, and I've seen a few, most memorably a brown snake lying across the path down to the stables on my first morning working as a groom in South Australia, and another one slithering under the haystack where I had to go twice a day. I actually threw a rock at the first one, not knowing that it was as likely to attack as to retreat. Then for two, I could count the low-life who exposed himself to me at night in Brisbane as I waited for a bus; or the kites that tried to mug me as I tried to eat my lunchtime muffin on the grass in Litchfield National Park in the Northern Territory; or the kookaburras that laughed when I fell out of my pushchair at Taronga Zoo in Sydney when I was 3. But instead I'll stay positive and nominate the emu I attracted at Wilpena Pound by lying on my back and waggling my legs in the air. Worked a treat!
Up to four, and of course there's heaps of choice here. The wombat at Cradle Mountain in Tasmania, that I managed to touch, to his alarm (sorry) because he was so short-sighted? Diddy Boy the dingo I butted noses with in tropical Queensland? All those fearsome crocodiles in the Territory? The camels I rode at Uluru and on Cable Beach in Broome, and in South Australia? The koala I cuddled, somewhat nervously (they have sharp claws, and can poo on you)? Hard to choose, but I think I have to go for cute little Steve, the baby grey kangaroo on the Eyre Peninsula, who just wanted to climb inside my jacket for a cuddle.
That's the end of the positive encounters now, because six means insects: the sticky, sticky flies that walk all over your face in the Outback that will not be brushed off; and the voracious mozzies in Queensland that bit me so viciously that my ankles swelled up and I couldn't sleep, and I had to take actual antihistamine tablets to fix the itching. And eight of course has to be spiders, and whether that's the ones that spun the webs I rode through wearing just a bikini in South Australia, or the tarantula on my bed at the farm, there's no way in the world that I can think about them without shuddering. On second thoughts, two legs good...
(This is Matt Preston, by the way, in his pre-Australian Masterchef days. Not a cravat in sight!)

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