I have a fear of snakes like my mother has a fear of sharks. When I say, ‘fear of sharks’, this doesn’t stop my mum from watching every shark program available. Whenever we tell her we’re considering going somewhere, her first question inevitably is, ‘But what about the sharks?’
When we first pointed Quest towards Guadeloupe – my mum wrote to us and said, ‘I heard there are great white sharks in Guadeloupe.’ I did a quick bit of fact checking and wrote back, ‘Do you mean Guadalupe on the Pacific side, in Mexico?’
I mean, there may be great white sharks in the tropical Lesser Antilles but they haven’t been made publicly known. That’s the thing about this part of the Caribbean – the Antillean sharks are smart. Smart enough not to get caught. In the Bahamas, sharks don’t care; they’re everywhere. Tigers, bulls, reefs, lemons. It’s one of the reasons Quest is happy to give the Bahamas a miss for now. South of the Turks and Caicos Islands, sharks tend to stay away from the coastline, which makes jumping off Quest an overall much more pleasant experience.
My mum‘s fear does carry some weight though. I’m not so sure we’ll bolt over to Guadalupe on the Pacific side. Even so, I don’t have the same fascination of sharks as I do with snakes. Snakes are my spirit, shit-scared animal. Growing up, we had nests of grass snakes in our yard in Maryland which occasionally got into the basement of the house. My mum would pick them up by the tails and pop them back outside in the bushes like she wasn’t scared of anything.
There are snakes in Wales and poisonous ones too. Adders love sand dunes and bogs. Their venom has a long-lasting, messed-up effect on dogs’ kidneys. For this reason, I no longer take Fin to the sand dunes – in this hot weather she’d be liable to jump on one while she’s rabbit-chasing. They’re in the bog. They bask on the path in the mornings. Last year Fin walked right past one and left me on the other side paralysed by my snake fear. I didn’t want to scare Fin so I also tiptoed past the geometric dazzler. It had a large lump in part of its body which may explain why it wasn’t inclined to move. It was busy digesting.
Two days ago we were walking here with my grandma a.k.a. the toddler, a.k.a. the hearts electrics lady, when I explained to her the snake situation.
My grandma said, ‘Fin may well sense the snake is dangerous. She herself won’t want to go near it.’
Stop the thought press! Fin wouldn’t want to touch it? Investigate it? Go near it? Does my grandma have a portal into the secret lives of animals? After all, Fin had walked past that snake last year without a second glance. At the time I thought she hadn’t noticed it. I never considered she’d ignored it because she knew it was something not for her. Like it was written into the script of nature.
‘Now,’ my grandma continued, ‘tomorrow we should bring a shovel here for the heather. It would look great by your grandpa’s grave.’
PS: The photo is a slow worm..