14th October 2005 at 01:00
Unwanted guests come in all shapes and sizes. Bill Hicks finds one as big as the bath

Last Tuesday at 3pm, the normal playground ambience of the personal forum was ruptured by a shrill cry for help.

Changster's panicky posting was the beginning of a real-time mini-drama that gripped the forum for most of the afternoon.

This was the heading: "Seriously, please help, fb monitor lizard just walked in."

It was a while before it dawned on me what Changster was talking about.

Monitor lizards? Was she being rude about a school official? The "fb" was a clue. Regular forum users know that this is shorthand for "fairly big". A fairly big lizard-like monitor?

Dim memories of some TV naturalist poking a stick at a prehistoric-looking reptile and making it bare its teeth floated up from the depths of my memory. It became clear that Changster was (a) genuinely alarmed, (b) probably not in Surbiton and (c) that right now, all she could do was tell us about her predicament over the internet.

As she continued: "Both girls are asleep and now locked in bedrooms. Don't want to wake them. Guards are nowhere to be found. Should I just wait until the morning and hope it goes, or attack it with broom? Wait policy seems best at the moment. It is around 80cm long with fangy teeth. Mr Chang is in Cambodia for another six days and I am on my own. HELP!!!!!"

Only last week, forum regulars were scaring each other with tales of large English house spiders. Changster, a teacher based in Thailand, certainly had them trumped.

Advice flooded in:

"Throw a wet bath towel over it."

Rapid response from Changster: "Throw a towel over it? The f****r is the size of a bath." More advice: "Read it some James Joyce. That always puts me to sleep."

Webturtle thought the best thing to do was to give the creature an escape route and then: "Turn up the air-conditioning really cold. Make it uncomfortable."

It wasn't long before the urge to educate came to the fore. One of our better known sages had this to offer: "Monitor lizards survive by catching, killing and defending themselves against other animals. Therefore they are equipped with sharp teeth, strong jaws and powerful claws. The tail is used as a whip in defence and can be mobilised with great speed and force. But the jaws are of the greatest concern. They sink through flesh to the bone and then shake with all their might."

A discussion continued on how best to engage with the creature until someone noticed that half an hour had elapsed: "Oh no we haven't heard from Changster! Hope she hasn't been eaten by the beast!"

It wasn't until six next morning UK time that Changster resurfaced. It had taken a security guard, a gardener and someone else to coax the lizard into going:

"I think from what he told me that they released it. Bloody marvellous thing Buddhism, but the idea that you shouldn't kill something threatening is a bit mental."

Leviosa: "Glad you survived, Changster."

Bill Hicks is editor of the TES website. www.tes.co.ukstaffroom. And congratulations to our web team, who have been named editorial team of the year in the UK Association of Online Publishers' annual awards

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