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British Expat Newsletter:
22 March 2006

Hello, and welcome to those who have joined up since our last newsletter.

In this issue

  • This week: Snakes
  • Virtual Snacks
  • Bizarre Searches
  • Quotation and joke

This week

Those of you who’ve been receiving these newsletters for the last eighteen months may remember that we had a close encounter with a snake shortly after we moved to our beach hut in Thailand. We’ve seen precious little of snakes ever since. Perhaps all the more surprisingly as they’re one of the most cosmopolitan groups of animals in the world – the only major land masses where you won’t find them in the wild are Antarctica (fancy that!), Iceland, Ireland (according to legend, St Patrick drove them all out), Newfoundland and New Zealand.

Then again, maybe it’s not such a surprise. Most people will tell you they’re uneasy about snakes at least, and many people are downright scared of them, to the point of phobia. After all, they’re not exactly fluffy bunnies. (In fact, they’re likely to eat fluffy bunnies.) They don’t have arms and legs, they slither across the ground, many of them are poisonous or can kill by crushing their prey. And we all remember Kaa hypnotising Mowgli in The Jungle Book, don’t we? (For those that don’t, how about the Parselmouths – speakers of snake language – in the Harry Potter books?) So if a snake appears in the home, many householders’ gut reaction is to kill first and find out whether it’s poisonous afterwards.

This is a bit tough on the snake. OK, some are poisonous. But many aren’t, or have a bite no more dangerous than a wasp sting. (Please ignore this if you’re in Australia. The ten most deadly snake species in the world all live there, including the inland taipan or fierce snake, whose average bite of just 44 milligrams of venom contains enough to kill up to 200 humans or 250,000 mice, if Wikipedia’s to be believed. Hmm…) And most species aren’t particularly aggressive towards humans anyway – given the chance, they’ll flee rather than fight. (Despite its name, the fierce snake isn’t, though you wouldn’t want to provoke it.) Even on snake farms, where the snakes undergo regular handling by humans to extract their venom – and that can’t be a very pleasant experience – bites are rare and are apparently usually due to carelessness on the part of the handler. More people are killed by lightning than by snakes each year.

Besides, they’re fascinating creatures. They have no ears as such, but are sensitive to vibrations such as footsteps. They don’t see particularly well, but better at night than in daylight (which again goes to explain why they’re not seen more often). Although they have many of the same internal organs that other vertebrates do, they’re arranged very differently – in a ribcage far longer than that of other vertebrates of similar size. They have that amazing sense of smell which helps them navigate through their surroundings. And, of course, they keep the vermin down.

By the way, we’re now moving out of the beach hut – the estate owners are knocking them all down, presumably to redevelop the land with something more profitable. But a couple of days ago as we were clearing some stuff out, a passing member of the estate staff told us she’d seen a snake going into one of the upstairs windows. We searched (very carefully!) but couldn’t find one.

Well, it started with a snake and it’s ended with a snake…!

Do you have anything to say about this topic, or do you have some suggestions for other issues we might discuss in our weekly email? Why not comment and tell us about it?

Virtual Snacks

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department have a wonderful set of pages about snakes in the Texas Junior Naturalists section of their website. As the name implies, the pages are aimed at younger readers – but they’re very informative, going into quite technical detail without losing clarity or without patronising. Well worth a look.
Texas Junior Naturalists: Snakes alive!

The Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute (the Science Division of the Thai Red Cross Society) houses the world’s second oldest snake farm. Unfortunately there’s not very much information on the Institute’s own website, but you can see pictures and read about it on the Thailand Guidebook.com website:
Thailandguidebook.com: Snake farm

Bizarre Searches

Some strange search terms which have led people to visit British Expat recently:

  • britany spears maze
  • silk and satin sex
  • ringophone heights
  • rabbit being pulled
  • what to say about having weird lunch
  • fun navy
  • my ex girlfriends picture on bed
  • ecards for your enemies
  • carrot amini british
  • british electric sex chastity belt show
  • warner brothers vulture
  • people who sing techno [That’s almost an oxymoron]

Till next time…
Happy surfing!

Kay
Editor
British Expat Magazine

Quotation

“Once bitten by a snake, a person is scared all their life at the mere sight of a rope.”

– Chinese proverb

Joke

It was St Patrick’s Day last Friday. (Hope you all had a very happy one, wherever you were!) To mark the occasion, here’s a news flash…

Archaeologists excavating in County Meath in Ireland have recovered what they think is an original manuscript by St. Patrick dating back to 455 AD. It was found near the famous Stone of Fal on Tara Hill, the spot where St. Patrick was welcomed back to Ireland by one of the great Celtic kings.

The ancient parchment manuscript is believed to be the oldest written Christian text ever recovered in Ireland. It is estimated to be the most valuable find in the 20-year research project since the discovery of the Tara Brooch in the same area. There is speculation that it may be in St. Patrick’s own hand.

Celtic scholars, historians, and religious scholars are excited by information translated from the original Old Celtic that purports to support what up to now has been considered a religious myth: St. Patrick’s driving the serpents out of Ireland.

Celtic language experts say St. Patrick writes that God revealed how to drive the serpents from the land in a vision. St. Patrick ends his narrative by quoting what God said to him in the vision:

“Pat! Trust me, it tastes just like chicken.”

PG Author: Kay McMahon

Kay has been an expat for nearly 30 years. She set up the British Expat website back in early 2000, whilst living in London and missing the expat life. These days she spends much of her time lugging computers and cameras around the world. (Dave gets to deal with all the really heavy stuff.)

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