Us Australians laugh at the cliche that the country is swarming with deadly beasties with the capacity to kill a human with a single bite. I’ve seen a few television specials that really pump up this angle, going into great detail about shark attacks, funnel-web spiders, snakes, stonefish, crocodiles etc etc. You’d think they’re jostling for space down Pitt Street in Sydney (along with the kangaroos). Your average Australian has a good laugh and plunges back into the surf or embarks on another bushwalk.
My girlfriend and I were swimming at Soldier’s Beach on the Central Coast on Sunday, however, and for the first time since I was about six I was stung by a bluebottle. That’s a Portuguese Man-of-War to you overseas readers; a small blue jellyfish with long, streaming stingers that is often washed up onto Australian beaches by westerly winds. It’s also an integral part of the childhood of anyone who grew up near the coast.
Unfortunately, my girlfriend was stung as well, and considering she’s not 100% comfortable in the surf and I was slowly encouraging her to be more confident, I was surprised by the bad luck. Despite the press, you don’t often get bitten or stung here in Australia. Fortunately, it was a minor ‘attack’. A bit of ice to the stings eased the pain, though I have a row of itchy red bumps down my right wrist as I write (note to forgetful self: don’t scratch bluebottle stings).
In a way, it was good she was stung. It’s like a rite of passage in Australia, getting stung by a bluebottle. Everyone should try it.
Update: I’ve changed my mind. You shouldn’t. She’s fine but I’m suffering rows of itchy red welts on my arm, leg and foot. Guess I’m allergic to bluebottle stings as well as mosquitos…