It’s scary but nobody cares

I’ve never understood why Australians bother with the drop bear myth. It’s like a morgue trying to freak out visitors with a plastic fly in the complimentary punch bowl. If Aussies want to freak out foreigners, they can simply relate their own everyday encounters with deadly creatures, such as finding a funnel-web spider submerged in an air bubble in their swimming pool, or discovering a brown snake in their washing machine, or being bitten by a redback spider at the age of three and taken to the GP’s office to be told, ‘It’s probably fine.’ These are all actual experiences Australians have related to me, unsolicited.

There was once an African safari park outside Sydney that advertised its lions and tigers and bears with a commercial jingle featuring the refrain, ‘It’s scary but nobody cares.’ While I can’t imagine the phrase inspired many theme park visits, such nonchalance in the face of potential death would be the perfect national motto for Australia. Sure, some Aussies do care, but the national attitude is pride in not caring. Another local once told me – again, unsolicited – about the white-tailed spider bite that turned his arm the greyish pallor of a three-day-old corpse. He related the experience with underlying satisfaction, as though it ranked high among his personal achievements. White-tailed spiders are scary. This guy not only didn’t care, but was damn proud of it.

This is the opening to ‘It’s Scary but Nobody Cares’, an article about coming to terms with Australia’s reputation for deadliness, published by Griffith Review. It’s an excerpt from my memoir-in-progress, How to Be Australian. The full piece is free to read now!

Here’s a little bonus I couldn’t squeeze in:
A Snakey handling a snake at the La Perouse Snake Show in Australia
Australians have a delightfully weird relationship with their deadly wildlife. The La Perouse Snake Show is a perfect example of this.

Running once a month for the past century, the snake show takes place inside this rather low fence. Visitors gather around and dangle their children’s legs tantalisingly into the arena, where a ‘snakey’ (the genuine professional term) hauls a variety of live snakes out of brown sacks and gives a little spiel about each of them.

Steve and I happened upon this by accident while visiting this historic part of Sydney, and we were captivated. Particularly when the man said, speaking directly to a potentially lethal snake in the cutesy voice used for puppies and toddlers, ‘You’ve got tiny little fangs, don’t you?’

This country will never cease to enthrall me. Also, I move that all writers be called wordies; it’s got a real ring to it.


PS. If you’re keen on hearing about my upcoming author events, plus great reads and book giveaways, sign up for my monthlyish enews.


5 responses to “It’s scary but nobody cares”

  1. You’re so right, we’re a weird lot for sure. What’s with the jingle ‘It’s scary but no one cares’?!! And that photo with the dangling kiddie legs – well, no words needed really!

    My mum, who lives on a farm, tells me these sorts of stories all the time – ‘Oh, I was just heading out the other day and a brown snake was on the back landing’. REALLY, MUM? Why such freakish calm?!

    As for the new term for a writer, I don’t mind the idea of being a wordy, as long as no one calls me a wordy wordy. Which they might, if I don’t stop typing soon.


  2. Nobody wants to be a wordy wordy, but it might be nice to be a worthy wordy.

    Following on from the It’s scary but nobody cares! theme, there used to be a sign out front of the African Safari Park, put there by the management stating, “Poms on pushbikes admitted free.”

    Showing Aussie insouciance, and our love/hate relationship with the old Mother Country.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cheers, Peter! I hadn’t heard about that sign before. It’s perfect! I hope there’s a picture of it kicking around somewhere on the internet. Also, might add ‘worthy wordy’ to my business cards 🙂


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