When I suggested that I might build a little tin house in the subtropical rainforest of south-east Queensland, I was advised by well-meaning folk that this probably wasn’t a very good idea. The forest would close in over the house; mildew and algae would grow on everything including me; the sun would not get above the surrounding scarps on the eastern side till mid-morning, only to plummet out of sight behind the scarps on the western side halfway through the afternoon — not that I’d notice, being penned in perpetual gloom under the forest canopy. All true. And no one to talk to but spiders and snakes.
There are certainly many spiders. I do talk to them, shout at them, actually, because when I do they flinch and try to run away. Unfortunately in their panic they too often end up running straight at me. There are so many snakes that kookaburras bring their fledglings to the garden for predation training. The babies get bored with the long wait motionless on a branch, and grumble under their breath, but the parents will have none of it. The fledglings have to sit there until they have done at least one successful dive on a reptile; then, amid manic howls of celebration from their parents and older siblings, they will finally be allowed to fly off and play.
The reptile count this year is very high, probably because, as the summer was unusually hot and dry, more lizard eggs hatched. Every day a full-grown male monitor lizard makes his round through the rainforest garden, unmoved by the clattering alarm calls from the forest birds. He eats baby skinks like whitebait, by the dozen.
I am used to the two kinds of tree snakes that have taken up residence in the ironwork that supports the house, but the small-eyed black snake that decided to look for a sunlit basking place on the verandah was a different matter.