Diary – Monday 23 June 2014.
I must have dozed off listening to Radio Four over the Internet. Suddenly, I was startled by the barking of our dog, Angun. I knew the bark, it was a warning to us that there was a snake nearby. Also to the snake that it was not welcome, so I went outside to investigate. It was about two feet long and as thick as my middle finger. However, that doesn’t mean that it is not dangerous in Thailand.
Angun had stopped it trying to get up onto the patio. I watched it shoot off behind a raised fish pond. It was dark green or grey, and I could see it in the recess between the wall and the pond. It’s head was off the ground and drawn back in an ‘S’ shape. It was ready to strike should Angun stick her head around the corner to investigate.
Now, I have been trying to identify snakes where I live for ten years. However, their colours vary so much and the photos are so small that it is not easy. When my wife, Neem, came home, she said that it was either a ngu singn (Lion Snake), if it was gray, or a ngu ba (Crazy Snake) if it was green. She couldn’t see it well because the recess was dark. Thais fear the former, because some say it is deadly, but the latter is harmless.
Anyway, we left it there and called the dog off, more for its own protection than the snake’s. This is quite significant because most Thais kill any snake they see regardless of whether it is poisonous or not. Just in case, don’t you know. However, Neem is a recent convert to not killing them unless she feels she ought to for safety reasons.
In any case, we both went back to our business. I to my writing and she to entertaining some family members who were visiting from Bangkok. I don’t actually keep a diary, but I do like to record certain events.
A couple of hours later, at four thirty by my wall clock, I went to the shop around the corner for a couple of beers as I do every day. Within an hour, the sun had gone down, which was almost two hours early. I had been writing in the shop, and time can fly when I’m doing that. Still, not three hours in the space of one, I thought.
As it happened, the shop clock was very slow due to a depleted battery. On top of that, I had forgotten my mobile phone. As I was contemplating this, a two-foot green snake shot across the road heading straight for me. I thought it was ngu ba, but if it was, it was odd that I had seen only two in ten years and both on the same day. Unless, of course, it was my ngu ba from home.
It was quite beautiful under the street lamp. I got a much better look at it, before it disappeared under the rubble in the shop’s garden.
Thais Hate Snakes (in general)
Fifteen minutes later, and I had forgotten about the time discrepancy and the snake. Writing in full flow often has that effect, until a scream brought me back to reality. It was remarkably reminiscent of my dog’s barking earlier. The shopkeeper, a middle-aged woman, was shouting ‘Snake! Snake!’ and three of her girlfriends rushed to help her. They each took a broom from the shelf and got ready to beat it to death. Such is the fate of most snakes that come across Thais.
It took them half an hour to flush it out of the shop, which has no walls to two sides. They had to chase it fifteen metres across a waste patch of land, before the first blow connected. Then, stunned, it didn’t stand a chance.
The four women came back to tell me what they had done. Presumably expecting congratulations on the success of their hunt. They were arm in arm and laughing loudly, like comrade soldiers.
‘Was it a dangerous snake?’ I asked.
‘No,’ one laughed, ‘only ngu ba!’
I could not be happy for them, although I also understand that the shopkeeper didn’t relish the idea of sharing her house with a two foot snake either. Poisonous or not. nevertheless, I also felt sorry for the snake, so I just went home to carry on writing.
It was then that I remembered the time differential, so I checked my wall clock, but it was correct.
So, what happened to the ninety minutes, I wondered? It’s one of the reasons I am writing this account in my virtual diary.
That evening I couldn’t get the picture of those four joyful huntresses out of my mind. During the night, I dreamed that I was a black man serving time in an open prison. The guards carried guns, and used them freely, killing a friend of mine who was suspected of trying to escape.
That was the first time that I have ever dreamed that I was a different colour.
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by +Owen Jones