Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Before we go any further, I suppose it would be a good idea to let you put a face to this writer, let you know who you’re dealing with, as it were.

This is one of the few photographs I have in which I look even halfway presentable. It was taken in Brisbane in 2010 (I know it’s almost seven years ago; I’m harder to photograph than a yeti) at the 50th reunion of agricultural scientists who graduated from Queensland University in years in ’58-’62 approximately.

What’s a person with a B. Agr. Sc. and a major in Plant Physiology doing writing fiction and editing/assessing manuscripts? It’s a l-o-n-g story …

For more, click on the About section above. For information about manuscript assessments or editing, please see: http://patrickdevalera.com

and click on Manuscript Development Services in the menu bar.

A ghost story

When I was young, I didn’t believe in ghosts. I’d gotten to 27 without ever encountering one, and that was just fine with me. From all the tales I’d read, even if one did appear – and appear seemed to be the main element in the thing: they appeared – they never seemed to tell anyone anything of importance.

So when I went to stay with my favourite aunt in Toowoomba, I didn’t give any thought to the fact that my recently deceased uncle had stayed there not that long ago. I’ll admit to a frisson of relief that I wasn’t in the bedroom he’d used when last he’d visited. My aunt always placed Uncle Arthur as far down the hallway as possible so she wouldn’t be woken in the night by the rattling of his bottles as he sipped on rum, beer, whatever through the night; she was bound to have placed Uncle Charlie there too.

I lay there, that first night, slowly drifting towards sleep, wondering if I would win The Xavier Society Literary Award with my huge, out-of-control first novel, whimsically called, Love the People! I felt I had a good chance and, at twenty-seven, I was impatient for those results, now six months later than the entry form had promised.

I was just falling towards sleep when I felt the presence of something coming up the hallway. It wasn’t a sound, it was a presence. A sense of dread began to fill me. What presence? The thought came into my head: Uncle Charlie. He had been my favourite uncle when he was alive. Why should I be terrified now? But I was.

The presence came up the hallway. Closer. And closer. It stopped in the open doorway to my room, where I lay trembling in my bed. I thought of calling out to my aunt, who was sleeping in the front bedroom across the hall, but what could I say? There was nothing to see. How could I explain my fear to her? I remained silent.

The presence remained paused at my doorway.

I gave way to full-on, atavistic terror. In my head, I began to recite over and over the words, Go away! Go away! I figured if I could just keep on reciting this without pause, nothing of what this thing wished to communicate would be able to get though. (There was no apparition. Nothing appeared; I think I would’ve been less terrified if it had.)

The presence did not go away, in spite of all my mental reciting. In my mind, I kept shouting, Go away! GO AWAY! Then something I can’t properly describe happened. There was a sense of terrible pressure in my mind, as if my brain had been put in a vice. Suddenly I couldn’t keep up my mental shouting anymore. And into this space came a voice saying the word, Rabbit.

Now I had anger mixed with terror. Someone comes back from the dead, terrifies you half to death, and they want to talk to you about Rabbits?

At my reaction, I sensed the presence turning, as if to leave. As it did so, I heard more words in my mind. These words sounded like, “It’s all a load of rubbish anyway.”

My head no longer in a vice, now I was really angry – a good feeling after all the fear. I thought Charlie was being disparaging about my novel, saying it was all a load of rubbish. This was how he always described books he didn’t like, irrespective of their real worth.

The presence moved away down the hall. I lay there trembling until I knew for certain it was gone. Why had it come? What had it been trying to tell me? If only I hadn’t been so frightened. Rabbits?

I was none too happy when the second night rolled around, but whatever it was never tried to communicate with me again. Eight months later, the long-awaited results of The Xavier Society’s Award were announced. My manuscript had come second, beaten by published author Hugh Atkinson’s, whose manuscript was entitled The Rabbits. The Women’s Weekly serialised the book after it came out. It wasn’t a load of rubbish, although it was a very light novel. Charlie didn’t like light novels (for my 9th birthday, he’d given me David Copperfield, putting me off Dickens for life). Remembering this, I understood why he’d said what he’d said.

Still, to this day, I can’t explain what happened.

The manuscript of Love the People! eventually became Those Brisbane Romantics. If you’re interested, you can check it out here: https://books2read.com/u/mVapMp

I saw this photo some years ago. The caption underneath read: George was 22 when he started writing his novel. The implication was that he was still writing it. I could relate to that. I was still writing Those Brisbane Romantics fifty years later. On and off, admittedly, but still writing it. I wrote the 1st draft in 1963-5. In 1967, this was placed 2nd to published author Hugh Atkinson’s manuscript The Rabbit. In those days, Australia had no Vogel Award for an unpublished manuscript by a writer under thirty-five.

(Bear with me, WordPress changed its formatting when my back was turned and, despite many attempts, I have NO IDEA how to get the text to run beside the photo. I tried. I tried ….)

To resume: in 1969, Brian Clouston of The Jacaranda Press offered me publication of the work, then in the 3rd person, if I cut it to 100,000 words (about one-third of its horrifying length). At that time, I had no idea how to do this. Life took me up. The savings from my first job were gone. I put the novel away and crawled up the steps of the State Library. They gave me a job in the John Oxley, the historical section. Later, I moved to the Department of Primary Industries. While working as a cataloguer for the second, I met Queensland poet Michael Sariban. Two children later, my hands, and my life, were full.

I resumed writing in 1990, very much behind the eight ball. By now, I was a single parent. I hunted competitions and high-paying mags the way lions once hunted springboks on the veldt, and was lucky to win a number of awards for my short stories, and/or have them appear in such wildly different publications as Penthouse and the Australian Women’s Weekly. I never aimed for the literary mags (big mistake as it turned out). Lit mags didn’t pay well, and the family needed the money.

Around 1993, I decided to resuscitate the novel. I edited Romantics to 115,000 words, mostly by condensing dialogue. Still needing lucre, I put it away and wrote Found: One Lover with Louise Forster, which won the Emma Darcy Award for Romance Manuscript of the Year 2000.

In 2005, Susan Geason https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Susan_Geason suggested I rewrite Romantics in the 1st person point-of-view. It took me some time to figure out how to do this. Eventually I succeeded in producing a manuscript of 108,000 words written from the 1st person POV as a fictional memoir. Susan took one look at it and said, “Nice try. But it’s not going to work.”

I went away and wrote the feel-good animal fantasy MagnifiCat, which was picked up by Sydney agent Rose Creswell. When she retired with the manuscript unplaced, in 2013, I put M’Cat up as an e and POD book on the web: https://books2read/u/3n8k6K It was at this point I discovered that publishing your book on the web is an appallingly dreadful experience. (The Amazon algorithm had a ball with the title MagnifiCat. All my Also Boughts were religious. 😊

A tiger for punishment, I then put my short stories together in a linked short collection entitled Dropping Out: a tree-change novel in stories, and put that on the web. I was still licking my wounds when it was shortlisted for the Woollahra Digital Literary Award in 2016: https://goo.gl/FtL0zz

Then I went back to Romantics.

With Susan holding my hand long distance through four more drafts, finally, at the end of 2017, I had a 98,300 word draft written in the 3rd person. Then, in 2018, I moved to Brisbane. This set me back two years.

When I recovered, I returned to the novel. (This is beginning to sound like “The Bricklayer’s Accident Report” by Gerard Hoffnung.) At the proof stage, I took out three more scenes, (you shouldn’t do this), and the finished work is now around 95,000 words.

It’s a very young book; everyone in the novel is under twenty-five and single. Technically, it’s an upper-end YA novel, which is how it came to grief. Traditional publishers held up crucifixes when they saw this marketing nightmare coming, even though, by this point in the saga, the manuscript had been shortlisted nationally for the Byron Bay Writers’ Festival and internationally for the University of Exeter’s Impress Prize.

Such is life, as Ned Kelly is claimed by some to have said.

Because of delays with the US cover designer, Romantics won’t see the light of day until early November. It will be interesting to see what happens.

The last items I unpacked after the move from Byron were the family photos, some of which I knew had broken glass. It was no surprise, I suppose, that I didn’t get around to themuntil now. The glass in a couple had been broken for years, but I’d lacked the motivation to open the bag, let alone do anything about it.

Having unpacked everything else and feeling particularly strong one day, I tackled the family photos. Only two had glass that needed replacing — the large oval one of my grandmother, my mother’s mother, Claire (Donovan) Doyle, and the small A4-sized one of the wedding of Uncle Frank my mother’s younger brother (there were 12 children in that big Irish family) to a lady called Daphne.

Doyle wedding c. 1937
L to R: George Donovan, Mag Doyle, Frank Doyle, Daphne Doyle, Joe Doyle

Looking at the wedding photo of Frank and Daphne Doyle, it suddenly hit me that I had no wedding photo of my parents. There was nothing. Now why was that?

Part of the reason for this was probably because my mother who was, of course, Roman Catholic, was marrying my father, who was not. In 1936, this meant no church wedding. Indeed, it was something of a scandal in which even Archbishop Duhig became involved. Having been heavily involved in the education of Great Uncle Con’s two children after Con dropped dead in the cow yard at the age of 35, Duhig must’ve felt he had the right to a say in my mother’s life as well. And so he sent a special emissary to Toowoomba to state the case against.

Imagine it. My mother had left school at thirteen. She was a young uneducated woman working as a housemaid in a hotel in Toowoomba. But she resisted the pressure.

And so they were married. On Christmas Eve 1936 without a church service, without a proper wedding, just a tiny affair to which my mother, I’m told wore a blue street length dress she could use later. Both were poor and had few if any savings. My father worked on the foundry floor at the Toowoomba Foundry.

In those days, getting your photograph taken was a Big Deal. One booked a session at a photographic studio and that photo would be the only one you had of yourself for that year. When I was a child we knew of rich families (well, we thought they were rich) who could afford to have a family photograph taken every year. Amazing, we thought; we could only manage such a thing for very special occasions. Still, there were street photographers who roamed the city carrying their heavy portable cameras “Take your photo, sir?” and for the poor, these impromptu shots were often the only photographs they possessed.

But my parents were married on Christmas Eve. I imagine there would’ve been plenty of people for the street photographers to capture, and they didn’t hang around the Registry Office as they usually did. And so there are no photos of my parents’ wedding. Nothing. Zilch.

FOOTNOTE: Frank and Daphne lasted only a few years before she took off with someone else. My parents stayed together until my father died in 1972.

The move from Byron Shire to Brisbane was a horrendous affair.

I had lived in the shire for forty years, twenty years in the same apartment. The only way I could get out of there was to have the movers pack for me. Unfortunately, these local movers did not unpack at the other end, and so I arrived with a two-bedroom house’s worth full of furniture and twenty-three tea chests.

What I did not arrive with was my fifteen-year-old cat Tim.

Tim

I had lost my loyal, doglike companion of fifteen year just six weeks before to chronic kidney disease. He died in my arms. At home, at the hands of a vet he knew and trusted. Although his end was very peaceful, I did not take it well. But reflecting on it later, when I was saner, I realised this was a mercy for him. He would have hated to see his home torn down around him and be transported to a strange place where his comings and goings would be seriously curtailed. Although the apartment I landed in had a courtyard, it was a postage stamp compared to the area in South Golden Beach that he’d had to roam in. Still, his loss hit me hard and, although I went on with plans for the move, I was dispirited.

Prone to anxiety, depression and wild despair,

I took to looking at pictures of Abyssinian cats online. (A number of vets had told me over the years that Tim was part-Abyssinian.) This was the only thing that could bring me to tears, and I feared the bleak, grim, tearless place into which I was sinking.

One day, as I was sniffling my way through the Brisbane Abyssinian breeders, I came across a website with a sign that read:

HELP SAVE KIRSTEN’S CATS!

An Abyssinian breeder named Kirsten had died just before Christmas 2017 (it’s now April 2018 in my tale of woe), and although the other breeders had swooped in to take her cats temporarily, they needed to rehome them.

Help Save Kirsten’s Cats! I began to look through the photos of the cats still needing rehoming. Most were the usual silver Abyssinians, but two were a strange golden tan, the colour Tim’s belly fur had been. Apparently, these two had been a breeding couple; now they had been desexed. My heart went out to them, stuck in their nine-foot-square breeding cage. People were prepared to take one cat, but no one wanted two. And these two were very devoted. They’d been separated accidentally in the chaos of the move after Kirsten’s death and the male had become frantic with loneliness. They couldn’t be separated.

I agreed to take the cats when I arrived in Brisbane in May, and sent Marie, who was holding them, some money for their keep in the meantime.

I didn’t know what I was letting myself in for when I took those cats.

I’d never owned rescue purebreds before. The Siamese cats I’d had in the distant past I’d had since they were twelve weeks old, and they’d run free like ordinary moggies. When I finally arrived in the New Farm apartment and checked out the courtyard, I realised at once that it wasn’t suitable for two cats who’d always been caged, and didn’t know about dogs, cats, cars, etc. The fence would need to be increased by a height of three-quarters of a metre and netting put over the whole lot if these cats were to be kept safe.

By now, it was June, and the nights were reaching two degrees Celsius where the cats were, and the seven-year-old male had a bad cough. So I took the cats before the fence was increased in height and the netting was up — at least, they’d be warm at night, and the male would have a chance to shake off his chest infection.

I brought the cats home on 24th June. Because of various delays, the courtyard wasn’t finished until 11 September. The cats and I spent the winter locked in the apartment, which had three doors and four windows to the outside, any one of which could lead to their doom if they escaped. It was a difficult time. The little four-year-old female cat was like Houdini and seemed determined to see the rest of the world — like that barefoot girl from Arkansas who’s sure she’d be a star if she could just catch that bus to LA.

Slowly I unpacked the twenty-three tea chests and tried to get my health back, which had taken a battering from the move; having moved many times in the first forty years of my life, I’d overestimated my ability to bounce back. I returned to walking, and found a nice over-50s yoga class in town. I was afraid of Brunswick Street, the busiest street in New Farm, an inner city suburb (when the wind blows the right way, you can hear the Brisbane city hall clock strike the hour), so I always walked away from it. The walk I took was uninteresting; there were few trees and the houses lacked charm. Many times, as I slogged doggedly along, I bemoaned the fact that I no longer lived near the water.

One day in November, I felt well enough to brave Brunswick Street (I hadn’t seen a traffic light in forty years), cross over and walk in the opposite direction. This is what I found:

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was three hundred metres from the river! Okay, this wasn’t the ocean, (I’d been three hundred metres from that in NSW), but it was water. And a walkway ran along the river from what I later discovered were the Howard Smith Wharves to the centre of the city less than 1.8 kilometres away.

I took stock of the situation. The courtyard was finished.

The netting above isn’t showing up well, but it’s there.

The cats were safe. I had my 98,000 word Brisbane novel to finish.

Well, well. Maybe I’d survive after all.

From this:

to this:

 

When I was a kid, I lived in Toowong, a suburb of Brisbane that bordered the base of Mt Coot-tha. At that time, the mountain was covered in trees and undergrowth, but I was determined to find a track through the bush to the top. (There was a narrow road to the top, to a small kiosk that sold Devonshire Teas and ice cream, but who wants a road when they’re an explorer?) Every so often, I’d come across a track that seemed as if it just might lead there. I’d follow it, always hoping that this would be the one, that secret one known only to me, that would lead me to the top of the mountain.

I spent many weekends doing this. The tracks were interesting; you never quite knew what you might find — a broken weir, a hermit who lived in a cut-down, corrugated-iron water tank near a creek (we ignored one another) — but always, eventually, the tracks I chose petered out. Already only one-person wide, they’d inevitably close in further until eventually I’d find myself standing in dense bush with no way forward, and very easily lost if I didn’t backtrack quickly to my original path while I could still find it.

Forty years ago, I moved to the northern rivers of New South Wales in search of cheap rent. (Stick with me, this is going somewhere.) A single parent with two children, I found an isolated farmhouse with no car, no phone and no power. Later, I moved into the township of Mullumbimby, only just recovering, thanks to the hippy movement, from the recession caused by the collapse of the area’s primary industries. When the children grew up and left for the city to find work, I moved to the beach, to a very isolated spot in the far north of the shire, where the rough roads had no footpaths or guttering, few streetlights, and where, if you walked one mile along the beach, you’d find yourself at the southern end of the Tweed Shire.

Years passed, and slowly the shire got discovered. Byron Bay had always had a reputation as a holiday town, and Brunswick Heads had its school holiday seasons, but for many years the rest of the shire remained undisturbed. The locals in the north had a few more tourists to contend with, but life went on pretty much as before. Later, though, things began to change: the amenities in Brunswick Heads began to disappear. First, the butcher went. Then the town lost the National Australia Bank. This year it lost its only newsagency. All these places depended upon for decades by the locals were replaced by restaurants and/or high-end clothing shops. When this happens you know the end is nigh. Sure enough, people with money began to move into the shire, people who could afford to pay high prices for the old houses in the towns and at the beach.

After a while, friends began to take advantage of these prices. They sold their houses and moved to places more isolated. Others left the shire for different reasons — aging parents who needed their attention, partners who’d scored jobs down south … Bit by bit, over a period of about ten years, my circle of friends dwindled. It happened so gradually I didn’t notice at first. One day, I woke up to discover I was down to two friends.

Sitting in my back yard one day over a cup of coffee with Tim, the cat (below), a sudden realisation came to me: I now had more friends back in Brisbane than I had in Byron Shire.

When the opportunity came to return to the city of my childhood, I was torn. I loved the shire, but it was changing. I could remember when the Gold Coast was just a series of hamlets scattered along a narrow, two-lane highway with scrub in-between. People bought land there cheaply and threw up fibro weekenders. Now it was a concrete jungle of high rises. If I stayed, would I watch the same thing happen in Byron shire? Sure, the local council had a 2-storey-high building code, but that could be overruled at any time by the state government, who’d already shown its hand by overruling the council on the fate of a caravan park in Brunswick Heads.

There was also the problem of transport. About five buses a day passed through my suburb. To get to the Writers’ Centre in Byron Bay took two buses, a commute of around seventy minutes, one way. To reach a specialist in Lismore or Tweed Heads required two buses and a taxi — a travelling time of about an hour and a half. One way. I was older now, and not well heeled. On foot, it was difficult to meet new people.

The track was petering out.

What to do? I discussed it with the cat, and he advised me to move north, back to the city in which I’d been raised.

More later.

 

This is the latest on Jack, whom my friend Sandy could not take with her when she had to move to Woollongong because of ill health.

Jack’s finally going to his new home! I got an email this morning from the big hearted Bailey at the Cat Refuge in Billinudgel this morning. It read:

Hi Dani,

Jack went to his new home yesterday where a 9 year old terrier was waiting for him as he had recently lost his cat.
The new owners had been waiting for builders to finish doing renovations on their house before they picked him up, it took longer than they intended, but all is done now, and I saw Jack off yesterday afternoon. The new owner promised to send photos of Jack and his new dog, so as soon as I get some, I’ll forward them on to you.
I’ve attached some photos of Jack yesterday before he left, and one in cage ready to go.
Have a lovely evening,
Kind regards,
Bailey 
Such a relief. Now all we have to worry about is whether he and the terrier will get on.

When I first came to the Northern Rivers of New South Wales, brush turnkeys were not protected. Consequently, a sighting of them was a rare thing. Sometimes as we were driving along we’d see one making its way stealthily through the bush. The kids would be excited. “Look, a brush turkey!” Now, with the advent of their protection, all that has changed. Today they stride confidently around the suburbs, chortling to themselves and ripping up domestic gardens. Nothing is safe. They will even hop up into pot plants and rip them up, too — just for the hell of it.

Brush-Turkey-001

Brush turkey

After losing my little vegie patch twice this year to brush turkeys, I went online to see if there was anything, anything, that might deter them. The web was full of the cries of irate gardeners, and not just from areas close to nature reserves and bush. Apparently the birds are striding around city suburbs as well. Fences don’t work; in spite of their heavy, ungainly appearance, the birds can get over fences ten, eleven feet high — ours like to fly up onto the carport port roof and walk about up there, their claws making nerve wracking sounds on the corrugated iron roofing.

Some people tried scarecrows, with differing results. The people across the road from me tried teddies.

Yard 15X8.5@72

Mostly, though, the consensus on the web was that nothing could be done. I liked my little herb and vegie patch; it provided a nice change from sweating over the content editing of my Brisbane novel. I liked to go out there when the going got tough and pull a few weeds, or just admire the silverbeet plants. Eventually I hit upon the idea of covering the patch with pieces of old aluminium fencing, which a neighbour kindly gave me. The turkeys still prowl about, but at least the parsley is looking healthy, poking up through the gaps in the fence, but something (not turkeys) is eating the silverbeet. And the marigolds.

Consensus on the web is that the only way of dealing with brush turkeys is the catch-and-remove method. You catch them and take them many miles away to the bush or a nature reserve, whichever comes first. As I don’t drive, this option is not available to me. Natural predators? They don’t seem to have any. The cat is no use; the birds are too big, you’d need a cougar to bring them down. As I watch them pacing around the garden in the late afternoon, my heart is full of trepidation. These birds breed every year. If we think it’s bad now, what’s it going to be like next year? And the year after that.

Does anyone out there know of a kind person who could give a good home to Jack, a four-year-old, neutered, part-eastern cat who’s currently residing in the Cat Protection Home in Billnudgel.

Jack

(If you think he’s looking a bit wild-eyed in the photo, it’s because he’s never been in a cage before.)

Jack’s tale is a sorry one. He was living a gung ho life quite happily with a girlfriend of mine for about two years. Then, alas, she fell ill and had to move to Woollongong to be closer to her only surviving son. Her son and wife already had two dogs. They were kind enough to take my friend’s dog, whom she’d had for over ten years. But not the cat.

Which is why Jack now resides in the Billinudgel Cat Protection home.

I would love to have taken him myself, but I am the possessor of a feline thug named Tim, who, though fifteen-years-old and neutered, will attack anything that comes inside our fence line — dogs any size, other cats, etc.

A few years back, I tried to give a home to a beautiful blue-eyed cat someone had dumped, but Tim would not accept him.

I really felt for that cat, and kept him going for over three years. By the time he’d found me, he was wild; we could not touch him, let alone take him to a refuge. I fed him outside, and managed to keep the two cats separated – he knew to vacate the yard when the thug was released for the day. Eventually Old Blue Eyes was injured by a car and had to be put down at the vet’s. So I can’t take Jack, much as I’d like to.

I wonder: is there anyone out there who could? He’s been in the home for three weeks now, and my heart really goes out to him. Please ring the big hearted Bailey, who does such good work for these animals, on 0497 442 623 if you think you can.

Here’s hoping.

 

Here in South Golden Beach, just a few miles from the Tweed-Byron border, we’re having an easy time of it. There’s water in the streets, and people are boating up and down the lower end of my street, the end closest to the canal, but up on the higher end, we’re warm and dry. The water hasn’t even risen up the driveway and the biggest problem we have to face is that the rubbish trucks didn’t come this morning and we’ve had to retrieve our bins unemptied.

But many of the other parts of northern New South Wales have not been so lucky. The levee banks Lismore was relying on to keep its CBD safe from the floods have broken and they have feet of water in the main streets.

Murwillumbah’s CBD is also flooded, and thousands of people on the south side of Mur’bah have had to be evacuated.

Anyone who’s lived in the area knows this is nothing new, but the amount of water that fell in the catchment area this time was, depending upon what radio station you’re listening to, between 500 and 750mm, all in a matter of 24-36 hours.

So we’ve been lucky this time. The worst flood I’ve seen here in twenty years was the 30 June 2005  flood when the water came to within 15cm of the floor boards. For us here in South Golden Beach, this particular flood is nothing like that.

In truth, the biggest danger we’ll ever face here is from the ocean and our depleted dune system. Our dunes are so low now that the next time a cyclone storm surge coincides with a high tide, we’ll have seawater in the streets. It won’t be dangerous, not like a tsunami, but it will be unnerving for the new chums and for anyone who lives in a house that’s built low to the ground.

Fortunately, there aren’t many of those. The hippie settlers who built here in the ’70s and ’80s understood about flooding.

SGB Cottage. jpg

Their little timber cottages, spurned by richer folk for not being built of brick on a concrete slab were all built at least a metre off the ground.

We’re lucky.

 

three-snakes

I had another snake in my little 2-storey apartment the other day. It’s the weirdest thing. For twenty years I’ve lived here and never had a problem with snakes — except for the night the python came looking to make a meal out of my old cat, who was sleeping near the back door. https://danielledevalera.wordpress.com/2012/12/11/quoth-the-raven-nevermore/

To have two in six weeks is strange. See: https://danielledevalera.wordpress.com/2017/01/11/snake/ This one I found at 4 o’clock in the afternoon at the bottom of the internal staircase. I’d locked the cat in with me from 2 -4 to prevent him hunting and bringing them in while I was having my cuppa-tea-and-a-lie-down. I can only conclude that I must have inadvertently locked the snake in with us when I came back from the beach and shut the doors at two.

A sobering thought.

Whether it was the same snake, come looking for more skinks (they live under my stove), I’m not sure. It certainly looked the same. Same size, six feet, same colour, black. Fortunately, he eventually slid out just the way the other one did, sailing out through the front door, which I’d opened wide for him. But I had a few bad moments before that: I’d lost sight of him when I went to look for a bucket to catch him in. That’s the hard bit. You come back, the snake’s disappeared and you don’t know where it is. All I could do was sit on the sofa in my living room and wait, like the woman in Henry Lawson’s short story, “The Drover’s Wife”.

Henry Lawson

Henry Lawson

In that story, which appears in his collection, While the Billy Boils https://www.amazon.com/While-Billy-Boils-Henry-Lawson/dp/141919383X the woman, seeing a large snake go into the slab hut she and the four children live in (her husband is away six to eighteen months at a time, droving), sets down a saucer of milk and waits through the night for the snake to appear so she can kill it.

Compared to the drover’s wife, I had it easy. But I’m faced with a quandary now. I’ll have to start keeping the front door closed when I’m out and keeping the cat flap closed, even when I’m home. The old cat has been coming and going through the front door for fourteen years. It worries me that he might be chased by one of the many loose dogs in South Golden Beach, run for the safety of his door and find it shut. But I don’t like the idea of six-foot black snakes sailing around the place whenever they feel like it, and I hate the idea of encountering one at night. I seem to have no option. The snake repellers on the internet have opponents and proponents. I’ll probably try one. In the meantime, I hope to retrain the cat to use the back door only, but I don’t like my chances.

(For reasons I can’t explain, this post is showing up strangely, even though it’s written as usual in 12 pt TNR in the original document and nothing untoward is showing in the WordPress menu. Another internet mystery. These little things are sent to try us.)