Voice of Real Australia is a regular newsletter from ACM, which has more than 100 mastheads across Australia. Today's is written by NSW North Coast editor Sue Stephenson.
Part of my job as a News Editor is to be across the stories my reporters have written and to check the photos and videos they have shot or gathered from other sources.
But when reporter Emily Walker told me she'd sourced video of two brown snakes possibly mating on Nobbys Beach, I just could not look. My toes curled, my muscles tightened and I got goosebumps at the mere mention of "two big Eastern Browns".
Fede Chiappetta had taken the video during a walk on the beach on Thursday. That's his photo above. He originally posted it on an online noticeboard, but after the comments ranged from something like "someone should get a shovel" to "it's fake", it was taken down.
I understand why people were suspicious. How could snakes that big (surely they each had to be two metres long) slither to the high-tide mark of a popular beach without being scared of the humans walking by with their dogs.
There is also that famous "fake" that occasionally pops up on the internet of a dingo eating a shark on the beach, as two brown snakes wrestle nearby - as if that happens on Australian beaches all the time. (I'll let you Google that one for a laugh.)
But no, Fede's video was all too-real. He kindly shared the original with Emily and there in the metadata was the location and time stamp.
Local snake handler Stuart Johnson from Reptile Solutions confirmed they were Eastern Brown snakes but said that contrary to what we thought, this was not a case of "reptilian sex on the beach", but rather two blokes fighting over the right to mate with the neighbourhood girls. Argh, does that mean there is a harem in the dunes and likely more being bred??
I grew up in a rainforest and in the bush. We had pythons in our dairy and wrapped around my Dad's tractor wheels and we would occasionally hear Mum scream whenever there was a red-bellied black snake curled up on the doorstep. I even once covered a story near Taree of a red belly with its head stuck in a can of Foster's beer (true story). And it was my husband who took the video of the brown snake hiding under the cement walkway at Watonga Rocks.
So why am I terrified now at the mere mention of "there's a s*@$#"? To me, it's not unlike someone saying "there's a sniper on the beach" because the two are almost as deadly and as hard to see.
Ophidiophobia is an extreme, overwhelming fear of snakes. Is that what I have? Come to think of it, all slithery and scaly things have this effect on me (even Harry Potter's Voldemort), so maybe I have herpetophobia?
I don't want to make light of these conditions though as they must be paralysing for those who have been diagnosed.
But I live in Port Macquarie, and near the known brown snake haunt of Lighthouse Beach, so I've got to come to peace with these things.
If you have any genuine tips, other than walking around with some sort of lethal implement, drop me an email. But please, no photos - real or fake!