You have heard of the film "Snakes on a Plane" well last night, here in deepest darkest Cornwall, it was "Snakes In The Living Room Dangling From The Wall Light". Now, I've always thought that I wasn't overly scared of snakes. I wouldn't go out of my way to find one and I wouldn't keep one as a pet but for the most part, I assumed that if I saw one I probably wouldn't freak out. Turns out I WAS SOOOO WRONG!!!!
Last night, at 9pm, my daughter KT and I settled down to watch the Mary Portas program about the regeneration of the high streets as this week, the featured town was Liskeard, about 5 miles from where we live. About 15 minutes into the program, I happened to notice, out of the corner of my eye, that some of the cats were a bit agitated and making a beeline for the piano at the far end of the room.
Now, I have to explain a bit about my house. It's quite old. It used to be three foundry cottages and in the early 1980's they were converted into a house by some utter cowboy! That's the only way to describe the job that was done. Corners were cut all over the place and nothing is straight or level or square or fits together properly but it's solid and it has walls which are at least a foot and a half thick so it's cool in summer and warm in winter and for the most part, it's a nice house.
So, back to the cats .........
As I turned my head to see what they were looking at, I saw two writhing objects hooked onto the wall light at the far end of the room with a whole bunch of cats sitting on top of the piano trying to get to them! I am ashamed to admit it but I squealed. Gone was the rational scientist, gone was the practical, tackle anything person that I usually am and in it's place was a squealing, panicking wimp shouting "Oh my God .... SNAKES!!!!!!
In my defence, the thing I was mostly worried about was the cats being bitten because they were very very keen to get at them but other than that, there is really no excuse for my wimp-like behaviour. Anyway, amongst all the panic of me squealing, my daughter leaping onto the sofa and the cats doing their utmost to get at them, I managed to pluck up the courage to get closer and have a look. Armed with a long stick I crept over to the piano to see what they were. There were two of them. Each about 45cm long. One hooked over the curly bit of the light fitting and one hanging on to the tail of the one on the light by it's mouth. It was a totally surreal sight. They had apparently fallen through the ceiling, probably after getting into the walls of the house from the big wall that runs all the way along the outside of the house.
Realising that if they fell off the light I would have to move the piano and try and find the little buggers, the only option was to get them off the light before they fell and into some sort of container. Luckily, by this point, somewhere in my turned-to-mush-girly-wimp brain, I had realised that they weren't actually snakes, although just to be on the safe side I did Google them before poking them with the stick! They were slow worms! Oddly enough, knowing they were only slow worms didn't ease the panic completely although it did ease it enough for me to be able to disentangle them from the light and put them into a bag.
A few minutes later, after the panic had subsided a good hundred or so notches, I open the bag so I could have a good look at them. They were, in fact, quite sweet little things with teeny tongues that darted out just like snakes, even though they aren't actually snakes. Sadly, I didn't take any photos before I took them out to the field to let them go, mostly due to the fact that my hands were still shaking although with hindsight, I totally wish I had. Anyway, here is a picture of a slow worm, for those of you who have never seen one and a few interesting facts.
|Picture Courtesy of www.froglife.org|
Where to find them
The slow-worm is often found in gardens and is widespread throughout the British Isles; it is naturally absent from Ireland.
Slow-worms are lizards, though they are often mistaken for snakes. Unlike snakes they have eyelids, a flat forked tongue and can drop their tail to escape from a predator.
Slow-worms have a shiny appearance. Males are a greyish brown and females are brown with dark sides. Some females possess a thin line down the back. Juvenile slow-worms are very thin and are initially around 4cm long. Juveniles have black bellies and gold or silver dorsal sides, sometimes with a stripe running along the length of the body.
Unlike other British reptiles, slow-worms rarely bask in the open, instead preferring to hide under logs or in compost heaps. Slow-worms feed on slow-moving prey, particularly small slugs. Like common lizards, female slow-worms incubate their eggs internally and ‘give birth’ in the late summer.
Slow-worms are protected by law in Great Britain against being deliberately killed, injured or sold/traded in any way.