Thursday, 29 September 2011


Spiders. Love them or loathe them, one thing’s for sure, right now is the peak of what one friend calls ‘people scaring season’ in the spider world. I’m not talking about those beautiful speckled spiders who lay long, invisible webs across the garden, although the milk-lady says she hates walking into them delivering milk in the early morning, nor the teeny-tiny ones whose trails highlight the sloppy habits of slatterns like myself who don’t dust often. I’m talking about those huge, spotty, hairy ones who maraud around my house as though they own it, and I’m the intruder.

I’m not keen on these guys. Actually, I’m not fond of spiders at all, having fallen hook, line and sinker for the schoolyard myth that spiders lay eggs in your hair which hatch in the shower. I know this is rubbish, but even so, if a spider gets too close, I have to move, just in case it’s got its beady eyes on my hair. Yet I can’t bear to kill them. They are marvellous creatures. If you look closely, they have amazing markings. Their webs are astonishing feats of engineering, and they eat nasty bugs and beasties I’d prefer not to have indoors. They feature in folklore as clever characters, and weavers of the web of life. And in some parts of the world, the really big ones are eaten as a delicacy.

I don’t imagine my house spiders taste good, so I like to think we have an arrangement; I keep out of their way, and they keep out of mine. But at this time of year it’s a different story. The spiders are out and about, rampaging around the house. I’ve always thought it was because they were seeking out a good place to hibernate, but no. It turns out Autumn is their time for romance. So when you see one charging across the floor, it isn’t actually making a move on your hair, it’s looking for an attractive mate.

I have heard this before, but it doesn’t help. The other day, one of the biggest spiders I have ever seen, decided the grey, Teflon-protected, polyester-viscose fabric of younger son’s school trousers was the ideal place to hang out. I went to iron them, and the startled spider scrabbled out from under the fabric, waving its hairy front legs in alarm. There was only one thing to be done: I screamed.

Eldest son came running, imagining some dire happening. I had grabbed the first thing to hand, a jam jar, and trapped the beast. Unfortunately, now he’s at high school, my darling child has turned into a fully paid up member of the ‘my-mother-is-an-idiot’ club, and he was not impressed. ‘It’s only a spider’ he harrumphed. ‘And you’ve trapped its leg. You’re hurting it: let it go.’

I scooped the spider into the jar, and tipped it outside whereupon it promptly made itself look very small and undeserving of all the fuss. ‘Look at the size of it versus the size of you,’ elder son huffed. ‘Honestly, mum.’ I shuffled back into the house, head hanging, suitably chastised. It isn’t easy being upbraided by a twelve-year-old.

The next day I wafted into the lounge to find him rooting about under the settee. ‘I just had one of those big spiders on my arm’, he explained. ‘It ran away, so I’m trying to find it before you start screaming again.’

So that’s it. My child has spoken. To to salvage my standing within my own home, I must make friends with the spider-folk. Or I could just get him to pick them up and put them outside. You might say I’ve trained him well!

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