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Thursday, April 15, 2021

Snake lurks in lettuce


I have a rabid fear of snakes (New Zealand does not have any), but I do buy a lot of cos lettuce (what Americans call 'Romaine'). New Zealand also imports a lot of vegetables and fruit from Australia, which I suppose is a two-way trade.  

So, does our cos lettuce, the kind where you get two in a plastic bag, come from Australia?

According to the Guardian, a fellow fan of cos lettuce, who happens to live in Australia, bought a bag of two lettuce heads in an Aldi store.  Then he put his shopping in his backpack, and cycled home. And apparently it wasn't even a smooth ride.

Then, as he and his partner were unpacking their groceries at home, out peeped this little snake.

One really has to admire the coolness and savoir faire of Australians.  Alexander White said that he only realized that it was a little snake (and not a big worm) when it kept on flickering its little tongue.  So he phoned the snake hotline, and was told it was probably a baby eastern brown, one of the most venomous snakes imaginable.

Well, I would have freaked out.  He did admit that he would have been more comfortable with a worm, but still thought it was cute.  He and his partner took many photos, and shared video chats with it with their children, who missed the big treat because they were away on school holidays.

Then the snake hotline got back to them, and informed them that it was a juvenile pale-headed snake, which was "medically significant."

Alexander thought that perhaps this meant it produced something useful for medicines, or something like that, but no, it apparently meant that if the snake bit him, he was to get to the hospital as soon as humanly possible.  And it was a surprise that it hadn't had a go, because pale-headed snakes are nervous by nature, and likely to strike out if agitated.

This must have been an unnaturally placid little snake.  After poking its front end out and having a look around, it retreated back into the lettuce and went to sleep.

So the couple put the lettuce bag in a tupperware container, leaving a little gap for air, so the snake wouldn't suffocate, and then checked the rest of their groceries, which were, thankfully, reptile-free.

Eventually, rather late at night, a snake expert turned up to take over the snake.  The delay, apparently, was because the snake people had been checking with the Aldi store to find out where the lettuce came from.  They wanted to take the snake back home, you see.  It turned out to be a town I have never heard of, called Toowoombah.  So off the snake went in a heated container -- and the couple washed the lettuce and ate it.

They have stronger stomachs than I have, that is for sure. 

Friday, April 2, 2021

Wellington's "sealion" ship ordered to sail away


From Radio NZ

She has been a feature of Wellington's downtown waterfront for many years.  Eighteen, to be precise.

She has a lot of history, too.  Originally a World War II construction, built in Adelaide and intended as a supply ship, her job description changed when the war finished before she was launched.  And so she became a mine sweeper.  And then a squid boat.  And then a house boat.

Currently, four people are renting the house boat, living within walking distance of most of the capital's attractions, including high-end shopping.  They have to live with the constant sound of pumps, as she is taking on water, but they have fun presenting her as an arts venue.

"We've had a number of one-off gigs out here, where we've just had a band set up here and the audience on the wharf, with 50, 80, 100 people coming down and engaging with their music which is great," said one of the boat's occupants, Simon Van Der Zeyden
Residents of the boat Simon Van Der Zeyden (left) and Dylan Pyle.

Residents of the boat Simon Van Der Zeyden (left) and Dylan Pyle. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

"It's a beautiful open-air DIY gig opportunity that we've been thoroughly enjoying." 

Van Der Zeyden is one of four of the boat's occupants, who organise the boat as an arts space, organising film nights, games nights and live music. 

But all that is now under threat.

The boat is taking on water. While four pumps are being used to ensure it doesn't sink, the boat is classified as "non-seaworthy". 

That's why the City Council - who are taking over the mooring contracts on the Wharf - has decided not to offer one to the Sealion

Centreport are planning on tugging the boat to Glasgow Wharf by next week. 

Van Der Zeyden and co-housemate, Dylan Pyle, have started a petition, which so far has over 850 signatures.

"What we're looking for with the petition is an engagement of discussion is brought upon us, where we can lock in a feasible timeline that allows everyone to have a sense of satisfaction and safety," said Van Der Zeyden. 

"Instead the decision has just been sprung upon us." 


Meanwhile, the owner Selwyn Findley - who lives in Nelson - said he was loving the boat's current use.

"It struck a chord with me," he said.

"When the old owner said there's people onboard, I thought that's kind of good, and it's being used for a creative space. 

"I've been to concerts on board, and it's like a nice little intimate club down below, and it just suits it." 

Findley has only owned the boat since the new year, after it was sold by a fellow Nelson man. 

While his long-term plan was to do it up, then take it across the Cook Strait to enjoy in the Marlborough Sounds, he was in no rush. 

"When they first sent the letter to me, I was sort of, I guess, stunned a bit for a couple of days. 

"I just thought it was a shame. There's always going to be something that comes along, but it's just disrupted things, and put pressure. Financially it'll be hard.

"It's just involved a whole rethink." 

Inside The Sealion.

Inside The Sealion. Photo: RNZ / Sam Rillstone

Council spokesperson, Richard MacLean, said the boat isn't fit to stay put. 

"I'm no nautical expert but the thing is, Queen's Wharf is not there to be a permanent home for a vessel that clearly can't get around the harbour." 

He was unsure of the inhabitants' description of the boat as an arts and community space. 

"We're puzzled by that, we're a bit taken aback. We tend to think that people are overstating the importance of the Sealion in Wellington's community sector really." 

But the boat did feature an evening DJ every night as part of the Council-funded events programme "What If the City Was a Theatre?" 

And they also had plans to take part in June's Jazz Festival... but with the boat now moving on, those plans are sinking fast.