I loved Snakes Alive!

I HAD a shock this week. It wasn't a big shock, as shocks go, though it might well have been.I probably wouldn't bother telling you about it, but for what the aftermath reveals about the times we live in.

I HAD a shock this week. It wasn't a big shock, as shocks go, though it might well have been.

I probably wouldn't bother telling you about it, but for what the aftermath reveals about the times we live in.

It was just enough of a shock for me to want to complain - which is where I seem to have been out of step.

I was walking along a quiet street in Woodbridge when I heard the distinctive sound of a bus approaching behind me.

Just as I registered that it was coming rather quickly, there was a loud cracking sound just above and behind me, and something struck me on the back.

For a split second, as I instinctively ducked aside.

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I thought I'd been hit by the bus. Fortunately I hadn't.

I had been struck a glancing blow by a branch, a little larger than my arm, which the careering bus had broken off an overhanging tree.

The double-decker must have been very close to the pavement, if not actually leaning over it.

I'd had a near miss - and not just from the bus itself. One step further back and I'd have been hit on the head hard enough to have done some damage.

As it was, I might have been knocked or startled into a collision.

The bus driver hurtled on, oblivious, at breakneck speed past Kyson Primary School.

I don't know exactly how fast he was going, but he was certainly breaking the instruction “20's plenty” on the nearby sign.

Luckily, I was unhurt, but I was cross, and I thought the bus company ought to know about it. So I phoned First Eastern.

After being passed on a couple of times, I finally spoke to a polite and pleasant woman in customer relations.

She took my details and my description of the incident. She then assumed I wanted to “make a claim”.

What could I claim for? A maybe slightly bruised back? A mark on my shirt, which I could brush off with my hand? My trauma?

No. I simply wanted to express my anger at what might have happened.

More to the point, I felt the driver should be reprimanded and told to take more care, especially in residential streets and around schools.

I thought I was being an old-fashioned good citizen.

But that, it seems, is no longer the expected thing.

What's expected, apparently, is people who think: “Great, I've been hit by a branch - what can I get out of it?”

What a sick and sad state of affairs.

I'VE always wondered about news 'bills', those few snappy words on a poster that try to tempt you into the newsagent's.

I've written a fair few in my time, wielding the black marker pen myself. But do they really work?

I can't honestly say I've ever bought a paper because of a good bill. But I might have done this week, if I weren't already a Star man.

It's hard to think of four more teasing words than: “Cuddling couple's snake shock”.

It's brilliant. It probably just tops my previous career favourite: “Lesbian sailor witch mystery” - which seemed to have the lot.

The story itself, of an exotic snake that surprised a canoodling couple in Christchurch Park, was good too. But it had little that wasn't already in those four sharp little words.

It did get me thinking, though.

First, what was an American rat snake doing on the loose in Ipswich?

And then, why doesn't the council introduce a breeding colony? They're apparently harmless to humans, apart from the shock and amusement value when they startle the amorous. But they might be a way of keeping down the squirrel and rat population.

And they might bring an extra something to Music Day too.

THE jasmine and honeysuckle outside my kitchen window are growing rampantly, as things tend to at this verdant time of year.

Normally I'd like to trim them back - but I can't. A young family of robins is in residence.

I've not yet seen or heard the babies, but I can't look out without seeing one or both of the parents with a beakful of wriggling goodies.

They have a regular route. Up off the lawn into the apple tree, from the tree to the washing-line pole, from there to the edge of the patio, then a quick dash to the nest.

They won't make that final dash if they think I'm looking. And they definitely maintain eye contact until I look away, when they will immediately take their chance.

No doubt they imagine I don't know where their hungry infants are.

And I wouldn't but for peripheral vision, the tell-tale trembling of the jasmine tendrils - and the fact that I watched them build the nest.