‘What on earth’s the matter?’ asked my husband as he rushed out of the lounge, closely followed by my son and bemused dog.
‘There … by the kettle,’ I replied, pointing at the dimly lit kitchen counter. ‘It’s really horrible.’
My husband inspected the offending article and immediately started laughing. My son looked over his shoulder and giggled too.
The reason? I have just shown myself up yet again by mistaking a discarded tomato stalk for a spider. At any other time of year the thought wouldn’t have even crossed my mind, but we are talking about Autumn and I had just been reading a news item stating that it’s a bumper year for house spiders. Yes, it’s that time of year when I always wear my slippers and obsessively bang out my wellies and walking boots before putting them on.
I’m not entirely sure when my spider phobia began, but I think my well-meaning father may have had something to do with it. Whenever he used to get up on his ladder to clean out the gutters, he would pretend to wrestle with giant spiders which were apparently “going for his throat”. They were, in reality, just pieces of moss and his intention was to entertain, not traumatise me.
When I was in my teens it was time to get my revenge - I would lie awake, anxiously listening to the patter of eight little legs scuttling across the posters on my bedroom wall (it’s surprising how much noise they make), and would wake Dad up in the middle of the night to come and throw the little rascal out of the window. Little did I know that in his semi-awake state he occasionally lost one behind my bed, but would persevere with his charade to trick me into going back to sleep.
Being a big softie, I never wish to kill my spider house-mates, no matter how big or speedy they are, and I always insist that they are put outside. I used to show the same level of sentimentality when my mum put out jam traps for the wasps and I sneakily rescued them with a twig and put them onto a shrub to dry out. I also only use humane mouse traps to catch the odd escapee that Winne the cat has brought in
Although house spiders can give a nasty bite, I know they can’t do me too much harm in this country. It was, therefore, a real wake-up call when I visited my family in Louisiana and was told to beware of the venomous brown recluse spider. This warning became reality when we found one on the edge of the swimming pool. Unfortunately, this spoilt my holiday a bit as I was on high alert all the time.
My phobia has led to several embarrassing situations; I was once standing in the kitchen when my friend spotted a spider on the stool next to me and let out a yell. I thought she was staring at my skirt so my immediate reaction was to undo the zip and jump out of it, leaving me standing there in my pants. Not the best thing to do in mixed company!
On another occasion, not long after moving house, I had left my handbag overnight on the hall floor and when I rummaged through it for my car keys, there was a huge spider running around in there. Quick as a flash, I opened the front door and flung the bag and its contents across the front lawn. Unfortunately, this was in full view of our bewildered postman who probably added me to his "Beware” list along with dangerous dogs!
When I was in my twenties my dad gave me his old Morris Marina (not a very sexy car, I know!) and a hitchhiking spider persisted in making surprise appearances when I was stuck in traffic. I got fed up with abandoning the car at the side of the road, but despite my dad forensically searching under the seats and behind the dashboard, it continued to evade capture. It certainly hastened by decision to sell the car and its squatter!
Although I have been as jumpy as usual this Autumn, I must admit that I am yet to see a spider in the house. Could it be that our dog and cat are spotting them and eating them or have my husband and son turned a blind eye to keep the peace? Whatever the reason, roll on November!