Picture: Fluffy, the great white shark, which was rescued at Manly Beach this week. Credit: Nick Dawkins, Facebook.
Australia may be renowned for its sunshine, beautiful beaches and Kylie Minogue – but it also has a reputation for being home to most of the world’s deadliest creatures.
Sharks immediately come to mind.
But if you live by the beach – even if you are a Pom – after a while you tend to relax about the prospect of actually meeting one in the water.
They are out there, but the rule is don’t swim at dawn or dusk. Plus, there are some shark nets, we are told.
So, when a great white shark was washed up ALIVE on Manly Beach yesterday, it was a reminder that we do live alongside some rather dangerous creatures here in Oz.
And, it also inspired me to write a post about Mrs Pom’s encounters with Australia’s most deadly – and disgusting – species since arriving here four years ago.
Picture: Mrs Pom’s early Christmas present.
Deadly Redback in our Christmas tree
I’ve always had a real Christmas tree, and I was surprised to hear most Aussies go for fake ones. However, Mrs Pom wasn’t going to drop her standards, just because we’d moved Down Under. No, I was going to pay an extortionate amount of money – $90 – for a real one which would obviously lose all its needles due to the heat.
The first year, we had no problems, and actually the needles held on pretty well. I now know I was naïve and had actually put my family’s life danger.
The second year, my parents were out for Christmas and were helping me heave this huge 7ft tree into the holder. While Grandad Pom was tightening the screws around the trunk Granny Pom and myself were steadying the tree, arms wrapped around it with our faces basically amongst the branches.
It was at this point that Granny Pom said, “I hope there’s no spiders in this tree” and I looked into the branches and came eyeball to eyeball with a Redback.
On my spider chart, which I had helpfully stuck to the inside door of the broom cupboard as soon as we got here, it said: “Fatal bites have been recorded” next to an identical picture of the Redback in our tree.
Picture: A vital guide for any Pom living in Oz.
After telling the oldies to keep the tree still, I swiftly got a plastic cup and plate and captured the dangerous Redback.
I’d like to point out that I remained calm at all times and dealt with it like I’d imagine Crocodile Dundee would have.
And, after getting a photo and immediately posting on Facebook, we released it outside.
Next year, Little Pom (the creative one) and I made our own beach-style Christmas tree out of wood from Bunnings. No more real trees for this family.
Cockroaches falling from the ceiling
While I may have remained calm when coming face to face with a Redback, I was not so cool when at work, a cockroach fell from the air vent in the ceiling onto my colleague’s arm. She is also a Pom and did us Brits proud by brushing it off her arm like a pro, while I jumped back ten paces and screamed.
I have an extreme hatred of cockies – as Aussies call them.
While they seem to be in abundance at work, which is in the centre of Manly, we hardly see them in our house. Perhaps one or two a year and while they’re massive – that’s a good thing apparently because whatever happens you don’t want the small, dirty ones known as ‘Germans’. I don’t like them whatever their size, full stop.
So, imagine the worst place to find a cockroach apart from on your plate or your fork? How about on your toothbrush? And, I found it. On my one. MINE! Late one night I went into the bathroom and saw a huge mother of a cockie on my toothbrush. Cue, more screaming.
The cockie escaped into a crack in the door fame – perhaps behind the walls there’s millions of them. Those are the kind of nightmares I have.
Needless to say, the toothbrush went straight into the bin and I now always put it away inside the bathroom cupboard.
Sea lice in your pants
Thankfully this hasn’t happened to me, but the younger Poms have suffered on occasion.
Apparently, sea lice are actually tiny jellyfish that travel in large numbers in warm summer waters, quite often when there’s lots of seaweed about.
They are microscopic, so the first you’ll know about them is when you start to itch. They have a tendency to get trapped inside your rashie or boardies, which is most unpleasant and painful, I understand.
There’s another type of sea lice, which are ones that live off the mucus and blood of fish. And, they’re even nastier. A recent story of a young guy who was being eaten alive when he walked into the ocean in Melbourne went viral.
The tiny parasite that can give you a meat allergy – or worse
Ticks have been getting bad press in the UK, but guess what? Here, they can give you an allergy to certain types of meat, such as beef, lamb or pork.
Yes, that’s right. Imagine never being able to enjoy a sausage sizzle, a well-used Aussie term for the act of cooking sausages on a barbie, or a steak ever again.
Picture: The said tick embedded in Little Pom’s head. Yuck.
These blood-sucking critters also carry other nasty bacteria including one that causes a condition similar to Lyme disease, which can lead to chronic fatigue, although it is not recognised in Australia yet and so therefore there’s no treatment. Brilliant.
To make matters worse, the northern beaches is a worldwide tick hotspot and we haven’t gone unscathed.
Most bites don’t result in long-term illness, but there’s an estimated 1000 people living on the beaches with a meat allergy and others complaining of Lyme-like symptoms.
Little Pom appears to be a magnet for them. Argh!
One tick took a liking to Little Pom’s scalp and promptly embedded its head in his head (so to speak). We froze it with Wart-Off, the current recommended way to remove them, but when it refused to drop off we spent three hours in emergency at Manly Hospital waiting for a nurse to remove it.
Statistically, we’re much more likely to suffer a tick-related illness than come face to face with a shark, which is why they’re my most feared Aussie creature we’ve encountered so far.
Incidentally, the juvenile great white was named Fluffy by its rescuers. A great example of Aussie humour right there.