Island Life by David Slack

Be Very Afraid

If you put your mind to it, you could find so much to fret about in this big old dangerous world you'd never poke your nose out the front door. Never mind Al Qaeda or the coming Armageddon in debt-laden America, what about the natural world around you? Take your pick: meteors, earthquakes, pandemics - they could all drop in before Christmas.

I'm an incurable optimist, but even so I've come to accept that at any moment you could look up to see a blazing ball of space real estate plummeting towards your roof. It would be entirely my luck for that to happen soon, given that we are at long last getting a new one next week.

But what can you do about it? Not a damn thing. No point in dwelling on it. Far better to fixate on the more immediate dangers. You can't, as Russell points out, even go out for a bit of live music these days without running the risk of immolation.

So let's answer the important question about the summer holidays that are (and sorry to bring up this stress-inducing fact) just 25 odd days away for many of us. The question is - and I must admit, it's probably one that only vexes a killjoy - what should a safety-minded holidaymaker be watching out for?

Your answer will no doubt be, if you're in your early twenties, and waxing your board at this very minute: "nothing".

But bear with me. I was once young like you, and I have a few war stories to prove my argument. Just the other night I was reminiscing about a skiing holiday we had at Mt Hutt in 1984. It was just after Labour had won the snap election. Great trip. Excellent skiing by day and, of an evening, the unfolding news of Muldoon getting his fingers un-prised from the PM's desk.

What you want to be watching out for on this particular type of holiday is ice on the access road. I managed three 360s before I could pound the car into the bank. This was by far the better of the two available options. The other was to take the drop off the other side of the road.

We got out to look. It had to be a couple of thousand metres of clear air before we'd have come to, shall we say, rest. I lit a smoke, got back in the car with the others and we drove on down to the Blue Pub. Laugh? We pissed ourselves.

I'm accident-prone. Various other holidays involved coming off my bike, thanks to the oversight of leaving the side-stand down. It happens. That's all I'm saying.

So assuming the worst, where might things get risky on your holidays? Well, how about your friendly bar? If you think that there won't be a stoush or two in a bar after the 10th of December over the smokefree carry-on, you're more optimistic than me.

How about this: guy lights up. Barista comes over and politely points out ban. Guy tells barista to rack off. Barista brings manager over. Manager repeats instructions. Guy repeats instructions. Manager fetches bouncer. Bouncer goes to remove guy. Guy's mates all pile in. She is all, as they say, on for young and old.

Bars are good at handling difficult situations, but the difference here is that there will surely be a few people feeling good and ready to object on principle.

I'm not saying the law will be unenforceable, and I expect you'll get acquiescence over time, but I can see a glass or two flying in the bedding down period. You might want to keep your head down.

Meanwhile outdoors, you've got another potential politically-created hazard, and that's the possibility that somebody decides to take a symbolic stand against the foreshore and seabed legislation and put up a barrier to beach access somewhere. People turn up and demand to cross the line. Push comes to shove. More glasses go flying. Again, you might have to duck.

The thing about having either or both of these sorts of things happening over summer is that it potentially keeps two pieces of contentious legislation in the media spotlight for the duration of the news-starved summer break.

Perhaps the Government takes the view that the smokefree business can serve as a kind of cats-in the-dairies diversion from the bigger, more problematic issue. Perhaps they like the idea of a fairly straightforward policy - which everyone will have an opinion on - monopolising the Christmas holiday political conversations. Better to have people debating whether the government is waving its nanny state finger at grownups than have people spending another summer talking about the foreshore and seabed and everything else that segued so nicely into the Orewa speech.

Maybe they're just working the numbers here: perhaps they expect a majority to support a hard line on the foreshore and perhaps they judge that the majority who don't smoke will have only a certain sympathy for the plight of the aggrieved minority who do.

Our family will be going to the Far North for the holidays, so we might see a bit of foreshore protest action. I don't expect we'll be dragging Mary-Margaret into many bars though, so she's unlikely to get to see many people expressing their indignation at being denied the right to - as she puts it - "blow smoke".

Other than those two, I except the summer hazards will just be the usual ones. Morons who overtake on blind corners. Morons on jetskis. Morons.

Just on the off-chance that you're planning to spend your holidays on the Amazon, or nearer to home you're considering taking kids of an impressionable age to see the new Anaconda movie and you think they might benefit from some reassurance afterwards, here's some very useful advice for cautious holiday makers.

This is absolutely the definitive word on the subject because it's, like, everywhere on the Internet and it comes from the US government peace corps manual for volunteers in the Amazon Jungle

1) If you are attacked by an anaconda, do not run. The snake is faster than you are. Don't panic. 2) Lie flat on the ground. Put your arms tight against the sides, your legs tight against one another. Don't panic. 3) Tuck your chin in. Don't panic. 4) The snake will come and begin to nudge and climb over your body. Don't panic. 5) After the snake has examined you, it will begin to swallow you from the feet and -always from the end. Permit the snake to swallow your feet and ankles. Don't panic. 6) The snake will now begin to suck your legs into its body. You must lie perfectly still. This will take a long time. Don't panic 7) When the shake has reached your knees, slowly and with as little movement as possible, take your knife and very gently slide it into the side of the snake's mouth between the edge of its mouth and your let, then suddenly rip upwards, severing the snake's head. 8) Be sure you have your knife with you at all times. Be sure your knife is sharp.

Yes, it is too good to be true. Snopes doesn't even bother telling you why, just flat out that it's false. I like it though, because it's just loaded with symbolism.

This government must surely have been feeling like the foreshore and seabed business was swallowing them whole. Perhaps by the end of summer they'll know whether their knife was sharp enough.