Reading the Independent on Monday, I was struck by a couple of items bizarre enough for me to wonder whether April 1st had been moved to mid-July and I just hadn’t heard. (You’re kidding me? Right?)
A stag party of young men, celebrating in an Alpine hut, discovered a snake (or it discovered them) and dared the would-be groom to lick the reptile on its scaley face. The snake had heard about this sort of behaviour and naturally objected in a forceful and direct manner. It bit the man, injecting enough venom into his tongue to spoil his celebration and interrupt the merrymaking with a spell in a hospital ward, being treated with anti-snakebite serum. He survived. I ask you, what idiot goes around licking snakes? Asps and adders are entitled to object when fondled by strangers. Cleopatra clasped an asp to her bosom attempting to end her life, and the asp obliged. Vipers aren’t fussy and Cleo’s breasts, though warm and soft, might have been a trifle smothering in the Egyptian climate. The asp just did what asps do. The bridegroom, on the other hand, appears to have been caught unawares by a creature determined to protect itself. If he was drunk, on drugs or just plain stupid that still wouldn’t have been an excuse. Common sense should have prevailed, and he wasn’t the only one present.
In rural Greece, I watched women working in the fields. They all wore knee high boots and they informed me it was to protect against snake bite. They had snake bite serum in the fridges too, even in remote areas. No lack of common sense there.
The last asp I saw was in Greece, near Kalmata. It emerged during a rainstorm from a friend’s under-house store room, where it had been quietly waiting for mice among the olive nets and old sanitary fittings and made its way from the partially flooded store across the driveway and into the olive grove. It was about twelve inches long, olive green, with an arrow shaped head. I watched it from the terrace, fascinated.
Common sense, however, told me to leave it alone, so I did, though I did warn the friend, who, because he has common sense, took extra care when entering the store and banged a stick hard on the ground outside to warn snakes, (who are deaf but respond to vibrations), so that they could make themselves scarce. Common sense.