That’s possibly the longest and most unnecessary title I’ve ever constructed for a blog post. Now what pray tell has prompted this peculiar declaration? Well, way back in November 2005 when we emigrated to South East Queensland, I’d been primed by such shows as The Crocodile Hunter Diaries and a lot of spurious urban myth about the dangers of living in this part of the world, and I was on prime alert for potential catastrophe and carried large and accommodating rucksacks…….everywhere.
Yes, there are a lot of sharks out there in Moreton Bay, crocodiles though are much further north towards the top end (it’s a hundred years ago since a confirmed sighting in Logan River but that’s not to say they are not still around) yes, the majority of the world’s deadliest snakes live here, and spiders…. and flora and fauna that appears to be designed to do it’s best not to make the landscape pretty but to keep us humans out of it. Fair enough. So for several years I loaded my car, handbag and medicine cupboard with a raft of life saving medications, litres of water and suncream, not to mention instruction manuals on what to do in the event of a snake bite, any snake bite, (bet you never thought you’d need a biro pen or marker did you? Apparently you should mark on the tourniquet where the fang holes are located in the flesh underneath…..lovely). You’re also supposed to have an accurate description of whatever bites you so that the right anti-venom can be prescribed; but I’m not suggesting you’ll in any way be capable of sketching an accurate CSI-style photo-fit as well with that biro and bandage in an actual event, and snapping away madly with your camera phone may just aggravate your wee beastie even further.
I actually had to have hypnotherapy before emigrating because of the very real possibility of encountering a snake and it’s only recently that I’ve even been able to willing look at pictures of them. After five months of hiking nervously around the hinterland and rainforest the first snake encounter I did have was in the most ridiculously mundane setting that of course no one ever actually believes me. I pulled up to the traffic lights outside my local shopping centre and a red belly black crossed the road in front of me. Yes really. It moved so fast that I lost sight of it before the lights changed and when I got home I couldn’t get out of my car for half an hour because I’d convinced myself that somehow it might have flung itself from road to undercarriage and be lurking in a wheel arch. Irrationality is the base of all phobias, so don’t judge me too harshly. Wikipedia describes their venom thusly “though having significant morbidity” – frankly the word ‘though’ is superfluous. I’ve only seen two others in the last six years (outside of zoo’s that is) and they were a harmless carpet python at the local Indigiscapes Center and an olive python…..in the park at the end of my road. I say harmless, but of course this corresponds entirely to your own perspective and irrationality.
As for sharks, well I’ve seen them in the ocean but not whilst I’ve been swimming in it; we only ever swim at patrolled beaches and never at Dawn or Dusk or in murky conditions. Huntsman spiders are a fairly hair raising spectacle, especially when they take up residence in your house….or hide under the compost lid (which might explain why mine is sadly neglected and distinctly un-rotated), and for a couple of years we religiously sprayed and checked our garden furniture for RedBacks. Until we actually saw them clinging to the side of the pool wall just above water height……as if to stick two of their little black legs up at us. Since then I’ve conceded that in this country everything is built to be adaptable, or as my Brother-in-Law bluntly informed me on arrival at Brisbane airport “adapt or die”, and no amount of sprays or precaution can bullet proof you from danger that insists on creeping up on you, or in the case of the Funnel Web, gets it’s kicks from a surprise and chase genre of insect terror.
In general I think we’ve actually adapted very well. Mossies no longer target us as we’ve lived in the heat long enough to have thinner blood than our thick clotted Pommie relatives (who occasionally visit and unconsciously sacrifice themselves for our benefit), and we can almost communicate with the locals if we slow our normal speech pattern down a notch and make a bit more effort to pronounce our very flat Yorkshire vowels. I can survive without ‘proper’ English fish and chips……..especially as there is a British fish and chippie at Birkdale that not only imports the oil and northern hemisphere cod but also had the fryers shipped over as well. So over the intervening years my portable emergency kit has diminished slightly. Although being a Mum and now a Nanna as well there will always be pretty much anything you could require in the form of hankies, hand cleaner, plasters, headache tablets, safety pins etc.
BUT – the real emergency that I am increasingly encountering is the absolutely inconsistent standard of take away tea in this country. You may sneer, but I’m from Yorkshire, and if I don’t get my quota of the life-giving-brew on a daily basis then I’m not an easy person to be around. Trust me, an angry Red Belly Black that’s had its back end run over would be a preferable companion. It astounds me in a country that is now so cosmopolitan and cultured……well in most of the big cities anyway……that all the effort that goes into training staff to be barista coffee makers does not extend to the very basic processes of making a cup of tea with a dash of milk. Invariably what we are actually served is hot water with a lot of milk that has had a teabag introduced fleetingly to the mix; if we’re lucky the teabag might be left in but by the time it struggles to diffuse into all that milk you get cold milky water with a slightly brown tinge. Admittedly it’s usually only at a charge of $2.50 and not the dizzying heights of $4 latte’s, but it still should be drinkable. That’s not to say that I don’t drink the odd frothy coffee, but I prefer to get my daily calorie hit from actual meals and not hot, caramel and caffeine infused, milk. Tea has been portable for centuries and there can’t be many working class people my age that don’t recall giant thermo flasks of it exiting the house with a pack of sandwiches on a daily basis. It built a nation, it was a stable of picnic fare for generations, and the Americans even tried to turn Boston harbour into a lovely big teapot. When you live in a beautiful country where being outside rather than in is the normality of your day then a hot beverage of choice needs to be transportable.
There are, to be fair, quite a few specialised tea shops around; ironically, more so than the UK it would seem, and my particular favourite is T-Liscious, where I can often be found with a St Petersburg Blend sans milk and my poetry notebooks. I have, in nerdy fashion, a collection of teapots, strainers, trays and a timer; I never brew green tea with boiling water as 80 degrees is nearer the temperature that is hot enough without scorching the leaves and making them bitter; I drink White tea with rose, China Black and Ceylon, Darjeeling, French Earl Grey, and Turkish Apple on chilly nights, and love trying new and interesting blends. But my staple will always be English Breakfast Tea, with just a dash of milk thank you very much. On campus I can usually rely on Darwins and Mr Bean whose staff let you add the milk yourself to a take out brew, but in the face of unpredictability, and possible real life over-milky emergency, from now on I’ll be taking extra tea bags everywhere in the hope that I can restore the balance with some extra leaves
This is The Pelican Cafe, Redland Bay Marina, where Domino The Wonder Dog and Babies are welcome, and Nanna Prawn can be all brewed up and contented and hopefully snake-free on the walk back through the park.