Monday, February 13, 2006

Trouble in Paradise #2

You may have seen the headline along the lines of: "Shark Frenzy Closes Beaches".

O bugger, you say. That's what I've always said about Australia... etc. Well, rest assured, that's nowhere near us. We're a thousand miles away from there.


I had my own close encounter with one of more serious elements of Australia's wildlife population yesterday too.

I'd spotted a little spider in the loo a few days back, but it had scuttled behind the cistern when I tried to swat it. Yes, despite being a wildlife-lover and saviour of Pommie spiders [they always ended up in our garden, despite Claud's protests that they have some sort of a homing instinct and would somehow find their way back], Ian has been cautioned to take no prisoners with Aussie creepie-crawlies and had drowned a humungous cockroach that emerged from a box of tomatoes only last week.

Anyway, I mentioned it to my arachnophobe wife, but hadn't succeeded in locating the brute, until it again showed its belly to me last night, hanging upside down on a new web it had created. Learning from my previous encounter, I swatted it towards me this time, and it then landed the right way up on the floor just a few inches from my bare foot.

You can see what's coming, can't you?
Well, no. It didn't bite me, but just sat there looking at my ripe, succulent big toe. I think it was my big toe it was eyeing up.
It sat there for a while as I took in the markings on its back. Red markings. A bit like this:

Hence its name, the Redback. [not actual size. The one I saw was only about 3-4 cm]
Only three Australian insecty-type critters are capable of killing you, and only two of these are spiders. And one of these is the redback:

"Redback spiders are not aggressive, but their bite is very poisonous and potentially fatal for children or the elderly. After a bite, the onset of pain may be delayed for five minutes then increase in intensity. Subsequent symptoms vary but have included nausea, vomiting, abdominal or generalised pain, sweating, restlessness, palpitations, weakness, muscle spasm and fever."

And I particularly like this bit [excuse the pun]:
"If abdominal pain occurs, it is worse when the lower extremities or genitals were bitten, probably due to lymph node involvement."

No shit, Sherlock?

If you consider the bits I was about to expose, it was a worrying experience. Although I had the distinct advantage of presenting a small target, of course.

What sort of warped sense of humour does a deity have when the two most common biting spiders in Oz have a reputation for either hiding in your bedlinen [the White Tail, which apparently makes your skin necrotic, although some contest this conclusion] and under toilet seats [the redback]? The theological subtext is that we should have left the aboriginal peoples in peace, I reckon...

There's even a song about the redback in this vein [bum-bum], by Aussie country legend, Slim Dusty, inevitably entitled "Redback on the Toilet Seat":

"There was a redback on the toilet seat, when I was there last night
I didn't see him in the dark, but boy I felt his bite.
I jumped high up into the air and when I hit the ground
That crafty redback spider, wasn't nowhere to be found."
(and so on, in an equally duff manner)

Where we're living is apparently the edge of "Bush". Well, after last night's experience, I think it could do with a Brazilian at the very least.


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