As so often at the vital moment, I didn't have my camera. I debated about waiting for Penny to appear, and neither of us moved for thirty seconds, then my nerve cracked first and I sped back indoors to get the Canon Ixus. As I expected, the snake was halfway into the safety of a hole in the paving when I got back.
I managed this glimpse of its tail though, which I was sorely tempted to pull, but snakes have a deterrent effect on such antics. But I know where it lives and hope to see it again, a handsome and harmless creature about 2ft 6ins long to add to the slow-worms, toads and frogs which Penny and I uncovered while digging a flowerbed last month.
The only one of the UK's four snakes to watch out for is the adder or viper which I do not want to have in our garden because it is poisonous. Update: sorry, venomous, not poisonous. See correction from the lovely North York Moors in Comments. The chances are slim, because they generally like to bask in heathland rather than on patios or lawns.
Snakes used to be called 'worms' in Biblical and mediaeval English and the same word was used for caterpillars, of which we currently have a plague. Look at these Large/Small or Green-veined White ones on our Brussels Sprouts. Do we opt for nature conservation against yummy Christmas veg? We do not.
Meanwhile, an epic drama is being played out in the caterpillar world here as our Cinnabar larvae face the decision: do we stay on the Wainwright's solitary and now almost wholly gobbled ragwort plant and make our cocoons there, or do we strike out like English colonists and explorers in ages gone, and see if we can find another source of food?
Here, above and below, are two of the latter, pioneering type. I hope, without much optimism, that they will not end up like Kipling's lost venturers in the Song of the Dead: