Conquering Fears and Discovering Bush In Australia

IMG_5133I conquered a few long-held fears during my holiday last week with the old man – the fear of whether we can actually spend time alone together without me wanting to kill him, because I’m aware that I won’t be able to use the PMT card as a defence in our retirement, as well as some rational, innate fears about the Australian wildlife.

Statistically, our adoptive country is proud to record that it has ten of the deadliest creatures in the world, and that’s only touching the surface because those figures don’t account for the deadly plants, animals, and insects lurking in every corner of its landscape that can make you seriously sick.

Basically, everything is out to get you.

It is my belief that the average native Australian is brainwashed as a child with the adage that ‘what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger’, so when they see dinner-plate-sized hairy spiders such as the Huntsman spider, they are able to look at them in a different light to the rest of us and appreciate them as the spiders that eat mosquitoes, unlike other arachnids such as the Redback, (and even ants), that can put them in hospital.

The less said about the Funnel Web, the better.

What I’m getting to, is that bush walking – note my ability to say the word “bush” in this context without laughing to myself like a five-year-old the first time she hears the word “penis” – is not for the faint-hearted, and completely at odds to the relaxing walks of my past in the pretty forests of the UK where my biggest worries were being stampeded by Bambi and the distance to the next pub.

We did a lot of walking this holiday, in part to witness the truly wonderful landscape that the south coast of Sydney has to offer – having reached that sad stage in our lives where we share lengthy discussions about trees and birds without boring the tits off each other or feeling like pretentious old fools – but mainly to combat the weight gain caused by a liberalness in wine consumption necessary to keep aforementioned inane conversations going, and the horrific calorie count of all the gastronomic delights we partook of (because we were on holiday).  That transitory film of dementia that descends upon the brain on holiday in regard to how easy it is to gain weight at our age really is quite wonderful.

IMG_5134In Australia, even an innocent walk to some of the whitest sand outside of Whitehaven Beach in Queensland (one of the world’s top ten beaches) has its mindfuck challenges. Where else in the world do you find “How to resuscitate” boards at each entry point to the beach? Because if the rips and sharks don’t get you, there are killer octopi, snakes and poisonous plant life, all waiting. Apparently, Jervis Bay, the last stop on our journey, is renowned for the Diamond Python, a wildlife fact the old man chose to keep to himself while I used the council “bush” toilets. Option two, of peeing behind a bush, wasn’t much better. 

IMG_5131The photo to the left represents your typical Australian bush mushroom –  hardly the type you rustle up a veg Risotto with  – and the one below is the type of daunting shape that stops you in your tracks for a second look, provoking the relaxation of your Sphincter muscle and your heart rate to increase to a dangerous level. Generally, you only remember that you’re in the middle of fucking nowhere around the same time that you discover that you only have one bar left on your phone. IMG_5132

In the bush it can feel like there are eyes on you from every direction, which is why I let the old man lead on our jaunts, indeed, the only time I allow him to assume full patriarchal, cave-man superiority before we get home and I am forced to remind him that men are to be seen but never heard.

Australian Survives Horror Jelly Fish Attack In Italy

One of the gnawing fears you have when you make the decision to migrate to another country is that your children may respond to the beckoning call of the homeland once they are old enough to decide where they want to live. jellyfish-257860_1280 (1)

 

That worry has been brought home to me over the past few weeks since NC, (like most Australian twenty-somethings), donned her backpack and popped over to Europe to ‘find herself’ with friends. I worried that the minute she caught up with her “roots” and felt that tug of familial love that still pulls at me from time to time when I return home, her foundations in Australia might begin to shake.

 

A message from her this morning managed to assuage my concerns, however, for it turns out that NC is probably the only person in Europe to be stung by a jellyfish.

 

Let’s not forget that our girl has lived in, nay survived in Australia – most famously recognised as the land That Time Forgot that houses ten of the most deadly animals – for eleven years with nothing more than a mosquito bite, and yet a dip in the Ligurian Sea has forced her to compete with Blake Lively in The Shallows for the most scary water fight of her life.

 

I can’t say that actually living in Australia eradicates its reputation for the certainty of death around every corner, and I have to be very careful about what I say in my job when I introduce new migrants to our land.

 

I try not to mention the spiders, for example, because although everyone has heard of Sydney’s deadly Funnel Web, (which leaves you around thirty minutes to get the anti-venom or you’re fucked), no-one tells you about their more common, larger and uglier sisters, the Huntsmen, which are much more common than we’d like them to be.

 

I haven’t been lucky enough to encounter a Funnel Web yet, and I know many Australians who haven’t either, because in general they tend to stay outside, in the ground or under rocks, providing another excuse for never gardening…Ever! 

 

Australians have a very different attitude to wildlife than us pathetic Poms, I should add, which means that if you want to be accepted here you have to toughen up. In Australia, it’s commonly accepted that if it doesn’t kill you, it’s alright.

 

What they can’t downgrade about their problematic wildlife is that a lot of them do.

 

When I first walked down the steps off the plane at Sydney airport a decade ago, I admit that I was expecting a Sharknado, spiders to drop from the trees and snakes to slither through the cracks of my hotel windows.

 

But it’s really not that bad…if you live in an apartment in the city.

 

Cockroaches – and they’re big fuckers – are as much a part of life as rats are to London, but you DO get used to them – honest! The Princess uses them as dental floss and I love that satisfying crack as she halves them like a walnut.

 

While the Huntsman, (with its legs even hairier than mine in winter), has frightened the living crap out of me several times, demonstrating a rather unimpressive quality to my personality on more than one occasion, Australians see them as a wonder of the planet because they consume the mosquitoes. I have many crazy friends who leave them in their bedrooms on patrol. I’ve also met several who have had them drop out from behind the visor in their car whilst they were driving and nearly died. huntsman-spider-1234030_1280

 

It’s all just another magical part of living in this glorious country.

 

Usually competent in the water (if you ignore the last Olympics), we can certainly compete on the jellyfish front as well, with the world’s deadliest up north in the form of the Box jellyfish. I was surprised when I was there when I didn’t see people swimming in the sea out of stinger season, having presumed it to be safe, only to be put right by a local who admitted that they never swim in the water at any time of the year – they leave that to the tourists.

 

As was proven by the poor British woman who recently lost her life to a crocodile in Northern Queensland. Stories like that produce a shake of the head and silent ‘fucking idiot’ condemnation from the average Australian because EVERYONE knows that you don’t swim in croc-infested water…and especially not at night.

 

I wonder if everyone in Cinque Terre knew about that one jellyfish in the water or if it was another case of my daughter’s Bridget Jones-esque attraction to bad luck when travelling?