Wednesday, 3 September 2008

September Spiders



I love September. It's my favourite month of the year: all that mist and mellow fruitfulness, and the colours of the leaves, and the fact that it's my birthday month, and the start of Autumn which is my favourite season, and - locally - "back-end" which means the fairs start to arrive in all the villages. September is a blissful month. Ah, but September has one huge drawback - the indoor invasion of the spider...


I am an arachnophobe. Pathetic, I know. I've tried to be rational about it: I'm huge and even the biggest spider is tiny in comparison. So what??? It makes no difference to me. And no matter how many times people tell me spiders can't hurt me - I don't care! Understand? I just don't care! It's not the hurting/biting thing that scares me about spiders. It's just - spiders. They're simply the most terrifying things on the planet...


However, I'm not scared of all spiders which makes me a bit odd (okay, a lot of things make me a bit odd, but we're talking phobias here so humour me). I'm quite happy with those pale, wispy, long-leggedy, pin-bodied, non-threatening ones that seem to make invisible webs in the high corners of rooms. They remind me of a lot of rather delicate elderly ladies, all apologetic in limp lace and fly-away hair, and I call them Matildas. Matildas are fine. So are the Autumn garden spiders - those little chunky ones who make beautifully intricate dew-diamond webs on the hedges and have lovely stripey bodies. I've always called them Footballer Spiders because of their striped jerseys and I'll happily remove them and the Matildas without a qualm. When I say remove, I mean move out of the way. I'd never kill one. I don't kill anything. And I've even held a tarantula without any problems at all. I thought I might die when it was suggested, but she was incredibly beautiful and furry and moved sooo slowly, just one leg at a time, without scaring me at all. She was more like a little furry creature with a lot of legs than a spider. I even stroked her...


They're all fine. It's the bloody house spiders that send me into a screaming, whimpering, total panic-attack. So, why??? Because they're nasty, that's why. They know I'm terrified of them and they play on it. And they lurk and appear from nowhere and then they run at you. Yes, they do! They don't run away and hide - they sit there, bouncing with menace, and then they scuttle straight at you with pure malice.


I'm so scared of house spiders that I couldn't even Google to find a picture of one for this post. I had to resort to a cosy cartoon. When the nights start to get that Autumnal nip in the air, my spider-radar goes into overdrive. I know they're there, in a dark corner, simply waiting to spring. I can sense them, see them from the corner of my eye. And over the last week they've started to come indoors to bed down for the winter in droves. Why on earth they can't just sneak in, sidle behind the skirting or under the floorboards and go to sleep, I have no idea. Why do they have to run across the floor, or sit on the staircarpet, or hang upside down above the bed first? Because they're thoroughly unpleasant, that's why.


I've got one of those spider-catcher gadgets but I'm too scared to use it. What if I trap one and then the little perspex door opens early and it runs up the handle...? Trouble is, The Toyboy Trucker, Elle and The Doctor are all scared of spiders too - so when there's one in the room, we all sit, transfixed with total terror, hoping one of us is going to be brave enough to catch it, but knowing that we'll actually all wait until it disappears from sight under The Sofa That We Don't Sit On...


I honestly tried not to pass my phobia on to Elle, and when she was little she called spiders Oggly-Goggs and I'd smile manfully as she presented me with yet another chubby fistful of waving hairy legs, and say "Oh, isn't he pretty, darling. Now let him go down the garden..." before being sick in the sink. This was fine until she started school - then all the other children informed her that spiders were scary monsters that would gobble her up - and wham! She became as petrified as I am.


Last year, on a night when it was just me and Elle at home, we had a Traumatic Spider Experience. There was a big one on the staircase wall. A Really Big One. A good six inches across, leg-to-leg. And it was springing and bouncing and being characteristically unpleasant. Neither of us was brave enough to use the spider catcher which was probably way too small for it anyway, it was too late to run and fetch Vee (the only person we know who isn't scared of them), and we wanted to go to bed but couldn't go upstairs without passing it... So, after a lot of gibbering, we decided if I went first, sidling against the far wall, and nothing happened, then I'd stand guard on the landing while Elle came up. Hah! Shaking and sweating I'd just got past the damn thing when Elle screamed. The spider had disappeared. It had dropped off the wall.


On the stairs? On my feet? Her feet? No. It was on my shoulder...



Gagging, I could just see it out of the corner of my eye - and believe me it was really, really h-u-g-e. I was frozen with terror, knew I was going to faint and/or throw-up. It was sitting on my shoulder, about half an inch from my face and I just knew that if it scampered into my hair then I'd die on the staircase - which wasn't what I'd planned for that evening I can tell you. I was screaming. Elle was screaming. The cats all ran away - damn them - I mean, you'd think at least one of our cats would chase spiders - but no. Anyway, in a state of total terror, I was trying to howl "get-it-off-me" but was so bloody frightened it just sounded like one long yowl. Elle was jumping up and down and crying and running around looking for something to rescue me with. "Knock it off me!" I screamed at her over and over again. "For God's sake, just knock it off me before I die!!! Hit it with something!!!"


She did. With a golf club.


The spider, possibly stunned and miffed, scuttled away under the staircarpet. Elle and I spent several dismal hours in the Minor Injuries Unit trying to explain why she'd practically dislocated my shoulder with a Tiger Woods' type blow from a nine iron. No-one believed us. It was touch and go whether they did her for attempted matricide.


So this year, not wanting to repeat that debacle, I secretly bought some Spider Stop spray from the Betterware lady. This is a "harmless but repellent to spiders" concoction of chestnut extract and clover leaf oil which spiders apparently don't like at all, and you spray it round windows and doors, floors and ceilings, to prevent the spiders coming in. I used three bottles. It smelt a bit funny at first, but it soon dried and seemed to work. I was just congratulating myself on my brilliant eco-friendly and humane way of ridding us of the annual invasion, when it all went sadly wrong.


Yesterday - our first chilly night and the first time we'd set the central heating - in the wee small hours long before the alarm was due to go off, I was jerked out of my slumbers by The Toyboy Trucker scrambling from under the duvet (he's a big bloke - it was like an earthquake), shouting "I can smell burning! Quick!". There were some other colourful words in there, but you get the gist. Dazed and confused, I stumbled out of bed, sure that I'd replaced the batteries in the smoke alarms, doing a quick cat-head-count, pulses racing.



"It's coming from under the bloomin' bed!" (he didn't say bloomin') The Toyboy Trucker yelled, now on his hands and knees, sniffing madly. "It must be the damn light socket!" (he didn't say damn, either). I couldn't smell anything, but flapped about the bedroom trying to remember which things I'd always said I'd save in case of a fire. "It's the radiator!" he shouted, using a lot more colourful words as he smacked his head a right purler on the bedside cabinet. "Get the fire extinguisher!"


Not able to remember where the fire extinguisher was but vaguely thinking that I might have used it weeks ago to prop open the garage door and not brought it back in, I blinked and gibbered. Then I smelled it too.


"Um," I ventured as he stubbed his toe on the bookcase while trying to find his clothes, and said something so profane I was shocked, "it's not - er - anything burning. It's warmed-up chestnut and clover oil... I - um - sprayed it round the bedroom to stop the spiders..."


I'll gloss over the next bit. Suffice it to say, The Toyboy Trucker left for work a few hours early, icily silent, and the cats had breakfast before it was light.



Anyway, I now have a theory about my phobia. I think that if house spiders came in pastel shades I might be okay. If they were pale blue and dusky pink and lilac and lemon, I don't think I'd be so scared of them - but until God rethinks his arachnid plan, I'll still be the one armed with Spider Stop and gibbering and having a panic attack in the corner every September...






4 comments:

Mummy said...

ewww - don't even get me started on spiders! It's the way they look at me...and they do. Right at me....with a sneer. I'm sure of it. There was one in our dining room a couple of nights ago, a fairly large one. With knees. You know the kind. Horrible. Hubby had to put it outside. And that hanging from the ceiling bit....that's just evil. I'm not even mentioning the one my mum and I found in the kettle one day. I don't want to think about how long it may have been there and 'flavouring' our tea. Maybe if they could be lemon and be lemon flavoured too it wouldn't have been so bad.....?

Christina Jones said...

hmmm - pastel-shaded, lemon-flavoured spiders...??? Nah, they still give me the heebie-jeebies...

Sue said...

You desperately need a cat who enjoys eating insects. I have one you can borrow. Moths are his snack of choice, but he'll eat anything that comes under the banner of "creepy crawly."

Christina Jones said...

sue - please parcel him up and send him over asap! I'll borrow him for as long as it takes for him to teach my lot that spiders are NOT their new Best Friends...