I've done my share of tut-tutting the English tourists on Australian beaches, lobster red and yet still out baking. They're clearly dazzled by the appearance of this thing called sunshine we have in Australia, and in their enthusiasm to up the lifetime quota of Vitamin D, neglect the sunscreen. They may never had slip-slop-slap-(slide) ingrained in their cultural upbringing, but still, it's a stoopid tourist move. After all, who doesn't know about the Australian sun's ability to strip your epidermis before you can turn over?
The only thing is, I think I may have been a little premature in my judge-yness of English tourists in Australia. Might not be able to feel so on the high ground of touristy respect of the foreign country after this week.
You see, we Australians grow up in the pride of having the world's nastiest spiders, snakes, sharks, crocs, drop bears, creepy serial killers, et al. Basically, we think we have all the native aggressors stitched up. Come to Australia at your peril, ho ho ho, we have all the stuff that can get you. Of course, most of us are secure in the knowledge the worst we've ever actually experienced is a red back bite, and even those don't have the whispered deathly mystique they had in primary school. I've been bushwalking all over the place and never gotten anything worse than a leech.
So, on entering the English countryside, I saw endless cultivated fields and thought we were home free. Lo, this is the place where generations of my ancestors worked and lived. Everything nasty has been driven off. Nothing here can harm us!
Not so fast. Now, I realise that yes, there are endless fields. But all that seems to have done is concentrate the attack arsenal of all the stuff lurking in the woods and hedgerows.
First, there's Nettles. Not just one, but fields of fracking nettles. Not the faery story nettles that a princess beats into cloth for her swan brothers (which is absolutely bonkers), but glass-needle, histamine loaded dart tipped nettles. In groves, leaning over every path. Go play, I said to the three year old, and all was jolly. Until there was screaming. And welts. And more screaming. And googling what to do about nettle stings.
Second, Mosquitoes. Not just one or two sneaky ones, but whole fracking clouds of swarming mosquitoes that lurk in the cool of the woods, waiting for tasty tourist flesh to happen by. Unopposed, these things could suck out the blood of an adult human in thirty seconds. In fact, they're not mosquitoes anymore. They are flying wood piranhas. The real version of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves would basically have ended after Kevin Costner said, "we can find safety and solace in the trees", when all the outcasts were instantly driven from the forest by hoard of flying wood piranhas.
Three, the Black Skin Lice. I'll admit, I don't know what these little beggars are called, but they're tiny crawly insects that get on you and crawl around until you squish them into tiny streaks of black. Which sadly, doesn't at all deter their dozens of friends.
Now, it is unseasonably hot weather, so the nettles and FWPs and BSL may have just gone crazy in the heat. But it's also true the houses have no screens. So until we can leave all the greebs behind this week, we just have to put up with them. And wear jeans against the nettles. Maybe this is why I never see anyone walking a bridleway? The only plus is that we have had plenty of sunscreen, so no one has been burned. I never thought I'd look on an Australian fly with nostalgia, but come our return to Oz this week, I just might.