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Jun-2014

Smitaki on Boulevard news Lesvos

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May 18 – No summer, only nasty animals

Last week I wanted to make a cup of tea and reached for the teapot. The pot was very nearly dropped and broken into thousands of pieces when I saw what it was hiding when I picked it up: a dark brown snake (well, I admit, it was rather small, only about 40 cm)! I put the teapot down quickly and, before the snake could react, I placed one of those mesh food covers on top of him (or her). I think the snake was as scared as I was: he didn’t move. The weather is still is playing around. If there are no showers or no grey or black clouds sailing across the sky, there is a cold wind blowing from the north or an impressive storm from the south. Real Greek summer weather has not yet reached the island and in the evenings you have the choice of either catching a cold outside or moving inside. Even during the day I am still spending a lot of time inside the house, just like my teapot that has its place on a sideboard in the kitchen. I suspect that the snake had also had enough of the cold May weather and was happy to have found a warm teapot to curl himself around. But now the snake was trapped under the food-net and I wondered what to do next. It was no use smashing his head in with a hammer; there was the net in between the snake and me and, in any case, I didn’t really want to do that. I wanted to find a way that I could safely transport him out of my house and set him free. But how to proceed? I decided to use the pizza shovel: I ran outside quickly, scared that the snake would come-round and escape. I grabbed the handle with its large round flat metal plate at the end and was back in no-time. The snake had not moved an inch. The round surface you use to get pizzas out of the oven was about the same circumference as the food net. But how do you shovel a snake out of it? I decided to give it a try — took up an acrobatic pose, trying to manoeuvre the food-net with one hand and the pizza shovel with the other (and, of course, keeping as far away from the snake as possible) while shifting the snake from the net to the shovel. I should have known that this was a dangerous action: the snake panicked (I already had), it started to squirm, found an opening between the net and the shovel and shot away! Well, there I was, with a pizza shovel in one hand and an empty food-net in the other hand, staring at the crack between the side board and the wall into which the snake had disappeared. What to do next? The sideboard was too heavy to move, but I did not intend to rest the case and let the snake escape. I mean, I couldn’t carry on working, sitting in front of my computer, drinking tea or cooking or anything, with the thought that the snake might enjoy having my company at the table. It might curl up cosily behind my warm computer, or when having my afternoon nap it might think that sleeping with two is much more fun than sleeping alone. The only thing I could think of was to close all existing gaps between the sideboard and the wall. So I gathered up lots of plastic bags to temporarily stuff the gap, then rushed to the shed where I got slats, a hammer and nails and furiously nailed the slats over the gaps. It was only when there were no more holes to be seen that my breathing returned to normal. Of course I asked the snake for forgiveness because I’d killed him in such an atrocious way and for days I really felt guilty; nonetheless I couldn’t bring myself to remove the slats. I silently hoped that he might have found a way out, for snakes are also creatures of God. According to friends he was not even a poisonous one, so he would not have hurt a fly. But, having taken over my teapot without asking permission was asking for trouble. The Queen knew better. For years now I have celebrated Queensday with a glass and a fly swat. This day always takes place at the end of April or in May and starts with the entry of the Queen. It’s an enormous hornet, the biggest wasp in Europe, who flies buzzing loudly into the house (well, whether she is flying or not, I’m not sure; I have never discovered how she enters the house, she is always suddenly there). After circling the house for some time she gets me so mad that I have to stop whatever I’m doing and then we start the game: the Queen flies all over the house and I run behind her with a big glass and the fly swat. As soon as she settles on a flat surface that I can reach, I trap her under the glass, shift the swat under it and I put her out of the house. That is round one. A little later the Lady reappears in the house and the game continues. Last year I won after four rounds when she gave up. Last week she was here again and I guess she was a bit older because this time she gave up after two rounds. This, of course, is bullshit because a wasp does not live more than a year. So each year it must be a new Queen making her entrance to the house. I wonder why each year I am honoured with the visit of this mega-wasp who enters the house not just once but sometimes four times in a mysterious way. So even though we are still waiting for the summer, insects are ever present again to give your life even more problems. Spiders, ants, caterpillars and mosquitos are again part of daily life. Recently, I heard somebody say that on Lesvos we have Tiger Mosquitos, a dangerous variant from that buzzing species that gives irritating bites. Yesterday when I was at my computer I saw a kind of mosquito passing by, although it seemed a little too big, so I thought no, maybe not a mosquito. When I took a better look I saw that his body was lightly striped; I became alarmed: was this an infamous Tiger Mosquito? The good thing about working on the computer is that you can quickly find answers for a lot of questions — so I discovered that this was no Tiger Mosquito, just some sort of dragonfly. And after asking some more people about this redoubtable mosquito, there seems to be no evidence that a Tiger Mosquito has ever entered the island. The only new ‘danger’ here in the north of the island is the motorized caterpillar, also called The little Train. It is an amusement park style vehicle that has its habitat now in Molyvos and in Pètra. First there was only one, but now it has increased to three and its habitat now extends as far as Anaxos. It transports everybody who wants (and pays) from Pètra to Molyvos, all the way to the harbour and even up to the castle. You do not have to be afraid of it because it creeps very slowly (causing plenty of irritation to fast drivers) along the road. In the evening it is so brightly illuminated that it looks like a fairground attraction. The route of this sweet locomotive with its two or three wagons has not yet extended to Eftalou, so there is no reason for me to be afraid that coming home one day I might find a derailed train trying to steal my teapot. (with thanks to Mary Staples) © Smitaki 2014

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