Saturday, 18 February 2012

The Serpent in my Garden of Eden

Last time I was in Mallacoota I was going to mow the back lawn – but it was so hot that I couldn’t bring myself to do it. The thought of the ever-growing grass has been niggling away at me ever since – fire hazard, snake-haven, that sort of thing. It’s been a fairly wet summer with only a few really hot days (I was in Mallacoota for both of them!) so the grass has gone a bit mental.

I bundled some things in the car on Thursday and made a quick getaway after school on Friday. The drive down was hellish (and rather slow). The sky was a purple black, split by a jagged pyrotechnic display, and the rain was a wall of water that no windscreen wipers could withstand. I crawled along and tried not to lose sight of the tail-lights of the car right in front of me, and hoped we were both on the correct side of the road. I started humming the music from Psycho – you know, the bit when Janet Leigh is running away with the stolen money and there’s torrential rain and terrible visibility? It was just like that on the road to Cooma, so bad that I half-expected – indeed, half-hoped for – the Bates Motel to materialise through the murk and gloom. It wasn’t much better on the road to Nimmitabel, and again all the way to Bombala.

After Bombala it wasn’t so bad – a glorious burst of late afternoon sun painted the treetops a dazzling gold while I drove through the dark forest beneath on the Imlay Road. There wasn’t another vehicle to be seen. I reached my little Mallacoota house, safe and sound and only a bit soggy, just on nightfall, with not enough light to see how long the grass had become.

So this morning I faced the Jungle Lawn and the Beast that is the Lawnmower – an ancient machine that the previous owners left for me – and which, I discovered, was a hand-me-down from the next door neighbours, who had it for nearly 20 years themselves! I checked the oil, put in some fuel and worked up a sweat trying to start it. It coughed into life on about the tenth pull of the cord, and thick grey smoke did spew forth from it, making the pristine air of Mallacoota thick, grey and, er, smoky.

With assistance and reassurance from my lovely next-door neighbours, whose beastly mower it once was, I was finally able to attack the jungle lawn. Crikey, there’s a lot of it, and it’s uphill and downhill and all undulatey and obstacle-covered. Bent double, I pushed that beast beneath fruit trees and around tree trunks and along the side and back of my giant shed, and occasionally, whenever I got to a bit of thick, lush, long grass, I thought fleetingly of the snakes that I just KNOW live in this locale. (Black snake, red-bellied black snake, the occasional tiger snake...)

Half an hour later, red-faced and with sweat trickling down my back, I took the grass catcher to the green waste bin up at the front gate. There was a flurry of raised voices and a barking dog next door, then Rita popped her head out to call out to me “Be careful out there – a snake just came right through our house, and it’s in our front yard!

Eek. Mea culpa. Me and my smokin’ beast must’ve flushed the little bugger out of the long grass at the back of the shed, and it fled in terror - right through Next Door’s back door and living room, past the lunging dog and the shrieking neighbours, to find freedom in the front yard.

It’s been a lovely day. My lawn looks great. Time for a glass of wine so I can stop thinking about the black snake that is lurking Out There Somewhere!