Halfway through September I noticed that there were a lot of spiders around. The garden is festooned with cobwebs, fat stripy spiders crouched in their quivering centres like trampolinists. Where had they been for the rest of the year? The Costa Brava? Did they toss aside their tattered copies of Riders, all stained with suntan lotion and brine, at some pre-arranged signal and hurry back to cow the greater part of the female (for I don’t know any men who tremble at the sight of a spider) (although my partner did once last winter when faced with a veritable monster by the stove) population of northern Europe?
Now I am not terribly fond of spiders; I am happy for them to scuttle about their spidery business as much as they like as long as they don’t impinge on me – as long as they don’t touch me. In fact, our house is also the abode of about 50,000 small pale spiders whom I futilely hope will justify their rent-free existence by eating a few mosquitoes in the summer. But this is the time of year when spiders start to take advantage. Now, in our bedroom lurks Edeltraud, the size of a dinner plate were dinner plates constructed of scratchy twigs, fierce little eyes and gnashing teeth. Ermintrude, her sister, is somewhere in the bathroom. This is most discomfiting, bedrooms and bathrooms are places where one is most vulnerable. Smaller interlopers have been evicted but these two elude capture.
Last week my daughter and I were pottering about in the woods collecting acorns when I walked into a big cobweb. Horrors! The resident spider let herself down from my head and tottered fatly into the undergrowth, and I was left clawing the thick sticky strands of web from my hair, and it was larded with corpses and limbs from the spider’s dinners. I feel a bit ill just thinking about it. And there was so much of it!
My partner is a cruel man and entirely unsympathetic to my ‘irrational fear’ of these small creatures who are entirely harmless, so I am inflicting my whinging on the internets. But actually, I am not exactly afraid of them, and in fact I find some of them (the fat stripy ones, for instance) beautiful and fascinating. I should like to believe my behaviour was evolutionary in origin, a hard-wiring to protect me from attacks by wicked poisonous arachnapods, but I can't help suspecting that were that the case everyone would share my feelings for them and patently they don’t. Size and all those scrittery legs and not being touched are at the root of it, although their form of predation doesn’t endear them to me either. I have been following Emily’s Disgust Project at Evening All Afternoon which is fascinating and inclines me to believe that I am disgusted by spiders rather than frightened of them. Perhaps my disgust reaction is based on a fear of contamination – of their physical grotesqueness, of their feeding habits?
You will notice that there are no pictures to accompany this post, I think you know why. There are also a lot of italics. It is that sort of subject. If anyone should like to bewail their spider-disgust or fear in the comments you may be assured of my sympathy.