Of snakes, barbecues and sanctuary

Toadspittle’s comment on the previous post referred to the rains here, which hit the international news because an English couple were drowned in a flash flood at Cala Finestrat, just six kilometres away from here. A very tragic accident and a reminder that the weather can be violent sometimes, although the claim of 360 days of sunshine is more or less true.

The wet weather seems to have brought all the snakes out of hiding. I saw this monster right outside the house, crossing the road and it looks about one third the width of the road.

There are thirteen different types of snake in Spain, five of which are venomous. One website comfortingly assures me, ‘Of the fifty or so snakebite deaths that occur in Europe each year, only three are in Spain.’ I thought this one was safe, as it was so big, so I went very close to get my photos. Now I am not so sure. I think it was a Montpellier, as they can grow up to two metres. They have venomous fangs. The day after I saw the above reptile, I was exploring a cavity in the dry stone wall by my cisterna, where a stone had fallen out, dislodged by the rain. I saw the viper lurking in there when my hand was just six inches from its head and it reared slightly to strike. I was shocked because I have walked along that wall in sandals all through the summer and now it seems there is a vipers’ nest inside the stones.

So the visitors to my barbecue yesterday – particularly the children – had to be warned about the danger. There was also the danger from the donkeys, as the mothers are still occasionally kicking at each other in rivalry, so I warned all parents to keep the kids away from the rear legs of the mothers. And the irony was that I got kicked very hard by Matilde in the side of my right knee. It was a good thing it was not the kneecap or it could have been serious. I have a bruise but nothing worse. The barbecue was for teachers at the school where I work. We have an occasional social get together, taking turns to host it, and this time it was held at my house because everyone wanted to see the new foals. Three weeks old now!

Finally, many thanks to The Wall Eyed Mr Whippy who comments here frequently and just sent me his copy of Elisabeth Svendsen’s book A Passion for Donkeys which tells the story of her Donkey Sanctuary in Devon and the Slade Centre which helps handicapped children through donkey therapy. It arrived in the post in time for me to read it while invigilating two 2-hour exams in school on Friday. What a marvellous story it is, truly moving, and it was such a salutory lesson to me that her story recounts so many examples of ill-treated animals in the country that prides itself so complacently on animal welfare. Thanks very much, ‘Mr Whippy’. It is a book to treasure. Elisabeth Svendsen died earlier this year, but her work continues. The website of the Donkey Sanctuary is work looking at. Please make a donation too: it is valuable work not just for animals but for less advantaged children.


About Gareth Thomas

After a mixed career as an aircraft technician, London fringe theatre playwright, Franciscan friar, and secondary school teacher, I find myself looking after the needs of four donkeys in a remote location in the mountains in the Costa Blanca. I like to listen to BBC Radio 4 and the wind in the pine trees. I am writing a comedy about a school in Benidorm. My favourite film of all time is "Jean de Florette". If I had my time again I would not have spent the early 1970s working for Special Branch.
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11 Responses to Of snakes, barbecues and sanctuary

  1. Barbara says:

    Ah yes, the Donkey Sanctuary, the richest charity in the UK. Who do some work in the third world, which benefits the donkeys and the people who rely on them to earn a living. The Brooke do rather more in that line, but don’t have a lot of cuddly donkeys to pet.

  2. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    Thank you Gareth; a braylliant post and escape from snakes.

    Donkey Jote.

  3. Frere Rabit says:

    Yes Barbara, I put the link to the Brooke on here a while ago and I agree with you. The Donkey Sanctuary certainly gets all the attention and the money. It would be good to see more support for the Brooke.

    Thanks too Mr Whippy for your comments. (And of course, the book!)

  4. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    I am glad the donkeys have ” the richest charity in the UK”, because donkeys have a hard time sometimes, (too often), and it’s wonderful that people acknowledge that and assume some responsibilty by donating as they can. Charity is always a cruel lottery and I assuredly have very serious misgivings about its corrosive role in society, but until we achieve a saner and kinder world, we’re stuck with it.

    So I say assertively, “good on yer, donks”, you do need a bit of help and awareness. People have conscripted donks into their world, so we should treat them well – even assiduously well.

    Don Q

  5. w says:


    Re your post above about Brooke. What is Brooke and why have they/it no “cuddly donkeys”?

    Bray tell! For I know nothing of this.

    Don Que?

  6. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    ‘w’ is me. I don’t know what happened.

  7. Barbara says:

    The Brook Hospital originally, started by Dorothy Brooke in Egypt when she saw the cruel treatment of ex British army horses sold after the army left. No cuddly donkeys to pet because their work is exclusively in the field, education and treatment in third world countries. Most of their staff are locally recruited. Gareth has posted the link. I have nothing against the donkey sanctuary but they don’t do the same work.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Thanks B

    I was unaware of this.

  9. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    Summat oop ‘ere. The above was my post.

  10. Frere Rabit says:

    Mr Whippy: I have no control over the identities of comments. If you post from a different computer (and the different IP addresses indicate this) the post may not automatically be attibuted to you depending on how that computer is set up. I hope this helps.

  11. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    There’s no problem at all!

    I only mentioned the issue to clarify that I sent such and such a post. I probably boobooed somewhere.

    It’s fine!

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