Here's what he had to say...
For most places I’ve travelled, people seem to have ‘snake stories’. Australia is a prime candidate for this. Mention to somebody that you once saw such a reptile, and you’ll soon be ‘out-snaked’ with accounts of then waking up with a snake in the bed, finding a nest of giant snakes in the kitchen, or snakes coming out of the dashboard while they were driving. I actually tried hypnotherapy before I left England, so great was my phobia of snakes. It didn’t help.
I encountered my first kitchen-snake in Cambodia. It was about two metres long, and grey with a dirty yellow belly. When I had discovered it lurking behind a gas bottle I bravely invited the office guard to deal with it. His reaction was the inevitable expression of contempt that showed he knew that I was too pathetic to remove it myself. He then took one look at the beast and went to fetch the bloke next door, who was doing an extension on his garage, to come and get it. While all of this was going on the cook was rushing about maniacally, closing my office door to protect me, and then opening it again in case I was missing all of the excitement.
The majority of my snake encounters have been in Cameroon. The first inkling I had that I was in trouble was when one of my technicians saw a large length of black pipe under a bush from the corner of his eye, and jumped out of the way thinking it was a snake. This I took as an indication of the size of snake I could expect. A month or so later I pointed out a Green Mamba that was climbing a tree in the village, near to where I was staying. “Ah, you’re starting to see them now,” being the concerning remark of the villager I was with, implying I’d had many close snake encounters without even realising it.
However, it was while I was standing on a fallen tree truck which was bridging a large stream that I saw the biggest snake. I was on my own, finishing the ties for a stream crossing on our water supply pipeline when I looked down and saw the back end of an enormous black snake swimming into a hole in the river bank. Holding on to the pipe, I edged my way along the tree trunk to the opposite bank. I then bravely decided I’d probably go and work on something else for the rest of the morning, and finish the crossing later.
So those are a few off my snake stories. As I do have a snake phobia I am very happy to be ‘out-snaked’, content in the knowledge that I was in a lesser peril.
When writing the Tinfish series of children books I’ve been very careful to avoid any characters that are snakes. From the outset I decided that they would be very positive books. The plots cause the characters to overcome challenges, but all of the characters are essentially good and well-meaning. A Tinfish book should be a fun experience which is phobia and nightmare free (unless of course you have a phobia of penguins, for example, in which case it’s not the book for you).
A Note from the Book Boost: Oy! You've given me a case of the heebie jeebies just chatting about those "no shoulders" (as my grandmother calls them). Thanks for sharing your real life stories with us. Please won't you tell us more about your books? P.S. I love penguins.
About the series:
The Tinfish series of children’s books follows the humorous adventures of Mr. Tinfish the penguin and his friends as they try to cope with the impact of climatic change in their community.
A sudden rise in the sea level, desertification, and warming ocean currents are amongst the many problems that the ever-changing climate will bring. Luckily for Mr. Tinfish, the other animals and birds all try to support each other, and Mr. Vinegar the walrus organizes numerous expeditions led by Mr. Choli the cat to help the colony adapt to the changing conditions.
Book One: The Lighthouse of Mr. Tinfish
Book Two: Mr. Choli’s River Trip
Book Three: Mr. Vinegar and the Frozen Sea
Book Four: Mrs. Cat-Biscuit’s Search for the Downward Land
Book Five: Mr. Ginger and the Disappearing Fish
Want More Chris?
Chris Wardle holds a bachelor’s degree in physical geography as well as a Master’s degree for water supply in developing countries.
Over the last ten years Chris has travelled extensively in developing countries working on charity projects in poor communities. He has been able to draw on his numerous experiences to inspire his creative works, particularly living for long periods in communities with different cultures in Africa and Asia.
An orphaned kitten in Northern Uganda was the inspiration for Mr. Choli’s character in the Tinfish series. He now lives in the UK with Chris’s family (via a few months with a foster family in France to organise his European passport).