One of the gnawing fears you have when you make the decision to migrate to another country is that your children may respond to the beckoning call of the homeland once they are old enough to decide where they want to live.
That worry has been brought home to me over the past few weeks since NC, (like most Australian twenty-somethings), donned her backpack and popped over to Europe to ‘find herself’ with friends. I worried that the minute she caught up with her “roots” and felt that tug of familial love that still pulls at me from time to time when I return home, her foundations in Australia might begin to shake.
A message from her this morning managed to assuage my concerns, however, for it turns out that NC is probably the only person in Europe to be stung by a jellyfish.
Let’s not forget that our girl has lived in, nay survived in Australia – most famously recognised as the land That Time Forgot that houses ten of the most deadly animals – for eleven years with nothing more than a mosquito bite, and yet a dip in the Ligurian Sea has forced her to compete with Blake Lively in The Shallows for the most scary water fight of her life.
I can’t say that actually living in Australia eradicates its reputation for the certainty of death around every corner, and I have to be very careful about what I say in my job when I introduce new migrants to our land.
I try not to mention the spiders, for example, because although everyone has heard of Sydney’s deadly Funnel Web, (which leaves you around thirty minutes to get the anti-venom or you’re fucked), no-one tells you about their more common, larger and uglier sisters, the Huntsmen, which are much more common than we’d like them to be.
I haven’t been lucky enough to encounter a Funnel Web yet, and I know many Australians who haven’t either, because in general they tend to stay outside, in the ground or under rocks, providing another excuse for never gardening…Ever!
Australians have a very different attitude to wildlife than us pathetic Poms, I should add, which means that if you want to be accepted here you have to toughen up. In Australia, it’s commonly accepted that if it doesn’t kill you, it’s alright.
What they can’t downgrade about their problematic wildlife is that a lot of them do.
When I first walked down the steps off the plane at Sydney airport a decade ago, I admit that I was expecting a Sharknado, spiders to drop from the trees and snakes to slither through the cracks of my hotel windows.
But it’s really not that bad…if you live in an apartment in the city.
Cockroaches – and they’re big fuckers – are as much a part of life as rats are to London, but you DO get used to them – honest! The Princess uses them as dental floss and I love that satisfying crack as she halves them like a walnut.
While the Huntsman, (with its legs even hairier than mine in winter), has frightened the living crap out of me several times, demonstrating a rather unimpressive quality to my personality on more than one occasion, Australians see them as a wonder of the planet because they consume the mosquitoes. I have many crazy friends who leave them in their bedrooms on patrol. I’ve also met several who have had them drop out from behind the visor in their car whilst they were driving and nearly died.
It’s all just another magical part of living in this glorious country.
Usually competent in the water (if you ignore the last Olympics), we can certainly compete on the jellyfish front as well, with the world’s deadliest up north in the form of the Box jellyfish. I was surprised when I was there when I didn’t see people swimming in the sea out of stinger season, having presumed it to be safe, only to be put right by a local who admitted that they never swim in the water at any time of the year – they leave that to the tourists.
As was proven by the poor British woman who recently lost her life to a crocodile in Northern Queensland. Stories like that produce a shake of the head and silent ‘fucking idiot’ condemnation from the average Australian because EVERYONE knows that you don’t swim in croc-infested water…and especially not at night.
I wonder if everyone in Cinque Terre knew about that one jellyfish in the water or if it was another case of my daughter’s Bridget Jones-esque attraction to bad luck when travelling?