Greetings Readers & Writers!
Jane Bloomfield: truth is stranger than fiction
is launching into another year of fun facts and frivolous notions, so follow me.
Weirdly, the tail end of 2014 and the fresh nub of 2015 have come with much bite...
The ground heated browning the grass, through which I ambled barefoot to the washing line with the post Xmas wash and stepped on a bee. Well, actually the bee stepped on me. On my middle toe. And stung it. What of it you might ask. Wuss. My foot turned into the ruddy plump hand of a toddler. Dimpled knuckles. Not quite. But angry.
Two swollen middle digits. Hand and foot. My broken finger still ugly and arthritic looking. My toe tight and shiny in the heat. Niggly. Enough to make any nice person a bit snappy. All Itchy& Scratchy.
Thankfully, from prick to end-of-malaise is approximately four point five days. After which time I painted my reformed toenails OPI Bubblegum and jetted to Far North Queensland with my first born daughter, now the ready age of 16.
To the town of Cairns. Home of a large and impressive array of oversized and venomous bite-ty things. Especially in the heady moist days of tropical summer; the middle of the rainy season.
I lived in Cairns for a year in the early 90’s as a newlywed. We hid indoors over summer weekends. Looking out at summer from the cooled fourth floor safety of our air conditioned apartment. We ventured out for slippery trips to the supermarket on the vinyl bench seat of Gloria. When the sun went down we’d venture out to play tennis under floodlights. Dodging fruit bats and dessertspoon sized black beetles attracted to the lights. While micro sized insects wee-weed on our damp thighs and caused immediate 50cent sized welts that itched like a dog.
In Cairns you cannot swim in the sea during all the months with an ‘r’ in them because of heart attack inducing marine stingers. Why was I back in this crazy town in JanuaRy you might wonder? To catch up with a French girlfriend of course.
‘We get one sting a day,’ the man dressed in life saving colours, at the buy-a-beach-umbrella-for-the-princely-sum-of-$30-a-day, on Green Island said.
I donned my thick lycra suit straightaway and felt like Ursula, a Russian mermaid from a Bond movie off in search of my undersea spy cave. I looked like a twat and scared all the colourful fish away.
(here I am again, with filters, no laughing, I can hear you)
I was desperate to see a salt water crocodile in its natural habitat while in Queensland. Supposedly, one called Harry lived in the manmade lagoon at our resort. I looked for him while three little girls with Shirley temple curls fed the ducks. Were their parents MAD or just a foolish tourist like myself? I haven’t ever been bitten by anything big. The ducks didn’t seem worried.
Harry must have been loved-up up stream with the other local cohort named Sarah. So we went to the zoo to get our wildlife fix. We watched a man in khaki give a snake demonstration. He had a selection of venomous serpents wrapped in cotton sacks. He did to those poor snakes everything he was telling the audience NOT to do. He was annoying the crap out of them tbh. I would have bitten him if my head had been shimmied around in that metal crook. Like Steve Irwin he saved the best for last.
Out of your bog standard green wheelie bin came - Mr Python. All four plus metres of him. Mr Crocodile Dundee Snake charmer put him on the top rail of his snake circus. Mr P slivered its circumference until his head kissed his tail.
‘Don’t stand next to his head,’ Mr SC warmed. ‘Pythons like to crush their prey, but they will bite if provoked.’
Punters disobeyed in brazen fashion. They had their photos taken smiling with their tongues in, patting Mr P’s tidy head. Daughter and I braved it and touched the digit width point of his tail. It was cool. We moved on to the petting zoo.
(This koala maybe distantly related to Bob Marley, the girl holding him is not)
On return to NZ, where the creatures are small and brown I took to mowing everything in site. (never buy yourself a weed-eater if you have OCD tendencies) on our not-small-enough-holding.
Then bugger me, mid satisfying munch a bumble bee flew out of the pale yellow flower of a mustard plant and stung me bam. Shot its poisoned dart straight into my right mammory. I kid you not. Bumble bum on the boob. I flapped my t-shirt. Examined my bra for the evidence. Its barb. All the while the sting stung. My breast fleshed reddened. But the best was yet to come. The following night 2 thirds of my titty was red, roaring and stingy. The spot of entry a purpling bruise. Why me I moaned, dabbing cooling antihistamine gel into myself in the dead of night and refreshing my wet flannel. (FYI this paragraph is full of lies and requires the following fact edit: Female bumble bees do not have barbs, they can sting repeatedly without injuring themselves). Lucky old them.
Enough is enough. You can see why I had to wear that becoming black stinger suit. I’m a stinger magnet.
By and by, the bumble bee boob booboo subsided as did my fescue depilatory desires. On Sunday morning I undid a temporary horse fence to allow quick access for the haymaker’s imminent arrival. On the way back I climbed up a two and a half metre berm to check how easy it would be to cut back some self-sown willows crowding two flax bushes AND I very nearly stood on the back of a POSSOM face down and asleep in a lovely grassy nest. Holy marsupial. In broad daylight. A pink startled nose looked up at me. I made noises that was not a woman in the height of passion. I took a step backwards and tripped over, whacking my head hard against the bank. Mrs Poss ran along the length of my body. But not on top. She did not scratch my face or body with her long sharp claws. Obvs nature and I were speaking the same language. That time.
I headed indoors, stopping to collect a watering can I’d left by the plum trees. A fledgling bird whimpered up at me from the grass. Ask your own mother for help. I’m over wild things. I did do a quick search for its nest. Then scarpered.
The next morning I woke with mild whiplash. It was the perfect day for a ride. While grooming my trusty steed, Star, I noticed the pile of horse covers in close proximity to my saddle was emitting a deep humming noise. A bumble bee emerged. You have got to be stinging me. I ran back to the house for fly spray. Call me a killer and I am. If you’d been stung in your knocker and still bared the mark, you’d turn all sniper on the good guys too. I pulled the offending articles onto the grass and doused them. Sure enough a family of BB’s had taken up residence. Sticky dark yellow sap clumped to horse hair. Women and children. Hail Mary. Wasps nest too of brittle honeycomb shape clung to canvas folds. I crushed them under my jodhpur boot. I felt no guilt.
Critters. They’re everywhere. The H has been away for 4 weeks. I’d like some action. But not this. Maybe Mother Nature has been trying to tell me something. Like, get ON your arse and write that bloomin novel.
Meanwhile - be careful out there folks.
(you can now swim at Cairns Beaches during the months with an 'R', inside stinger nets)