What an exciting weekend! Saturday was the last day of 30 Days Wild and also Wild Night Out so we (Myself, Emma, her friend and her friend’s Dad) embarked on a wonderful micro adventure that ended up with a trip to A&E and a course of antibiotics...
We headed out around 5pm on Saturday. The idea was to have a paddle in the packraft, a splash in the river, a little barbecue and camp out in the wild.
It all went swimmingly. It has been a rich seam of good weather of late and we tapped into it - the girls really enjoying the cooling waters of the river and the generous warmth of the late afternoon sun to dry off as we lit the barbecue and opened a can of beer.
After eating we dragged our gear, using the packraft as a kind of pulk, to a secluded spot where we figured we could set up camp undisturbed. It was around 9 pm when we threw down our mats, and threw up the tent. The air was cool, but not cold. A heron flew overhead and we could hear its wings beat. It was as quiet as can be expected with a 6 and a 7 year old negotiating for more marsh mallows but it was idyllic to be outside, free of the usual digital distractions to which our children can be easily subjected.
Then... I stood on a snake.
Then, whilst wandering around the longer, uncut grass near the tent, it seems I stood on a snake. I felt a sharp pain and jerked my leg up. Two little holes on my ankle oozed a drop of blood. I wiped it off.
I thought I had seen the back end of a grass snake disappear but I was carrying my unpacked sleeping bag and I honestly didn’t really believe this could happen in Cambirdgeshire.
I thought no more of it and before long we were all lying down - children in the tent and grown-ups out under the stars. It was stinging and I joked with everyone that I had been bitten by a snake, but I didn’t really believe it myself. As I tried to rationalise it internally I wondered had my eyes deceived me? What else could it have been? There were no brambles or plants nearby. Nothing but grass.
The dark flick of a snake tail remained in my mind. Surely I hadn't actually been bitten by a snake? These things don't happen in the Cambridgeshire! But the summer sun was setting, shadows lengthening and my mind wandered.
I remembered encountering vipere (adders) when I was a child, in Italy. I was almost always with an adult as I recall and in any case I had been drilled as to what to do: cause vibration from a distance, remain still if it is close to you, don’t touch it or poke it, don’t step over it, even if it blocks your path.
They were beautiful creatures, occasionally quite large, with dark diamonds down their length. Fascinating to a child, because of their danger as well as their beauty.
But that was rural Italy. Most people in England have never seen a snake in the wild.
The next morning I lay in the silence of nature, next to my daughter. The early morning sun warmed our faces and she smiled silently at me - the smile of someone who has (for once) slept well in a tent. This incidentally is quite possibly a major turning point as getting a decent night’s sleep has been tricky for her in a tent, but more of that another time.
The bite marks were weeping and walking was painful.
I had forgotten about my snake encounter, until I moved my ankle and felt some pain. The marks were red but there was no swelling. It wasn’t until we had packed and started walking back to the car that it started to stiffen and the pain started rising.
By the time I had got home it was aching and slightly swollen. It was at this point that I began to accept what had happened. It abated after a rest in the afternoon but by the evening, having worked a few hours in the garden, it was throbbing, and sore.
My wife convinced me to go to A&E where they didn’t feel the infection was visible enough to prescribe antibiotics. By the next morning I knew I needed something more than a painkiller. I was confident there was no venom (even if it had been an adder I ought to have reacted by now, unless it was a dry bite) but my ankle was red and tender and although the swelling was still minimal, the bite marks were weeping and walking was painful.
I have never got an appointment so quickly in all my life. Perhaps it was from curiosity, rather than any real sense of urgency, but I must thank my local surgery for seeing me immediately and prescribing antibiotics instantly.
As I have mentioned before my wife has an irrational fear of snakes, so this is a particularly bizarre thing to happen in our household, especially only a week after Emma and I were looking at snakes in the local nature reserve. Four days have passed now and the antibiotics have kicked in and, whilst Emma and I have found it all to be a bit of an adventure, the chances of her mother ever spending a night out with us in the wild has receded further.
At least it's something to tell the grandchildren. Of course I may dress the story up by then...