As regular readers of this column will know, I love America and I really love living in this community. However, when my husband and I were looking at which part of the U.S. to make our home, there were some aspects of the natural world here that frankly terrified me.
And I don’t just mean annoyances like the bugs or humidity but very scary stuff – specifically in my case, snakes and hurricanes. Both of these love the South – just as I do.
Nevertheless, I decided to adopt the “stiff upper lip” expected of us British and “feel the fear and do it anyway,” or as we used to say in college, “put on my big girl pants and get on with it.”
They say knowledge is power, so I tried to rationalize my fears away as we really wanted to move to Richmond Hill in sunny coastal Georgia.
First off, snakes. Well, frankly the facts I discovered were less than reassuring. You have to remember that we don’t have many snakes in the U.K. as a whole – and even less in busy London where I lived.
There are only three types of snakes in the land of my birth: the harmless and common grass snake, which is the snake that terrified me as a little girl visiting a farm and leads to my phobia today; the very rare smooth snake; and the only poisonous British snake – the adder.
By the way, did you know that there are no snakes in Ireland? The legend says that St. Patrick famously charmed the Irish snakes out into the sea. But the scientific reason is that it was too cold in Ireland, where the glacial ice age lasted even longer than in England. By the time Ireland had warmed up a bit, snakes could not cross the 12 miles of icy ocean separating the two countries.
Anyway, I was dismayed to find out that there are 41 varieties of snakes in Georgia, but only six of them are venomous – only six! Nor was I reassured to also find out that on average only four people a year in the U.S. die from their snake bites. Oh fabulous, what about all the people that don’t actually die?
Well, I am living with my fear. Snakes hate dogs and we have four of them – so that helps, and I only walk in the woods with my furry snake chasers.
Also, here in America anything that human endeavour can do to protect, manage or fix unpleasant or potentially damaging natural phenomena is available. We have found an excellent pest control man in Richmond Hill who lavishes our property with “Snake-Away” (what a fantastic and quintessentially American brand name that does what it says on the packet). As this very patient pest control man lives close to our home, he is kind enough to come around when I call him if I think I have seen a slithering threat.
Then there are hurricanes – we just don’t have such violent weather in the U.K. I had to stop from barricading the dogs and myself under the bed recently during a tornado warning, thunderstorm and power outage.
I was prepared with my cell phone (we call them mobiles in England) and flashlight (we call them torches), but within two hours all was back to normal except for a few trees down, so disaster was averted.
In spite of this recent escape from calamity, I just can’t help worrying as we enter the peak of the hurricane season. And I am not looking forward to my first evacuation, of which there have been a few in our area over the last 25 years.
The facts can be comforting: The last hurricane or “intense tropical weather system of strong thunderstorms with a well-defined surface circulation and maximum sustained winds of 74 mph or higher” to make landfall in our area was Hurricane David in 1979, although hurricanes Floyd and Hugo were near misses.
On the other hand, the 1800s were much worse for hurricanes in our region than the 1900s, and some experts say that we are overdue for “a big one” with this year expected to be an active tropical season.
So armed with my dogs and my American flashlight, as well as my husband who stays calm in any bad situation, I go forward enjoying the summer and loving Coastal Georgia.
God bless America.
Francis grew up in London, England, and moved to Richmond Hill in 2009 with her American husband, Carl, and English dogs. She can be contacted at email@example.com or www.lesleyfrancispr.com.