I have a thing about snakes … much like Harry Angel had for chickens in that devilish 1987 detective drama Angel Heart. My first encounter was back in my Uitenhage innocence, when I spied a bootful of vipers in a neighbour’s car. The chap across the road would catch snakes in the veld for, I think, scientific purposes. He also worked in his dad’s garden service business, and I was always afraid to ask whether the missing digits on his hands were from snake-snaring mishaps or changing blades on lawnmowers.

I have had plenty of snake encounters since moving to Kommetjie more than 20 years ago — including one with a puff adder on a contour path. I thought someone had left a leaking gas bottle on the mountainside, until I saw this fat sack of venom hissing at my feet. My walks last week were punctuated by encounters with Cape cobras. The first was relatively tame — a large, lazy cobra slithered across the path into the thick grass, not at all bothered about the handful of gawkers....

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