Facebook is creaking under the weight of so many oversized randy male spiders running around people’s houses just lately. Here in Penry Land we had our own monster and heaven knows where he’s got to since I resisted the urge to attack him with a couple of bricks, but instead turned out the light and went off up to bed.
Anyway, I managed to find a merry (?) little tale about a spider’s web from years and years ago, back when we lived somewhere else and thought I would share it with you now. So here goes.
September 7th (Thursday)
When I was a child, there was one nursery rhyme which always gave me the shivers.‘Will you come into my parlour? said the spider to the fly.’
I’ve always hated spiders, especially the ones that have big bodies and hairy legs and looked big enough to accommodate a brain of some sort. Don’t tell me that they are just creepy crawlies – spiders are different. Spiders can think.
Their stillness has always bothered me. Like an Apache stalking its prey, they just sit there, plotting how best to scare the shit out of me. In the end, I cured myself of the terror they aroused in me by finding out more about them. I browsed through books on gardening (the chapter on pests and insects, although in fairness the spider is neither); I read my Reader’s Digest book on Butterflies, moths and other creatures ; I read up on natural history.
So now, whenever a modest looking arachnid turns up in my kitchen (but not the bedroom, one has to draw the line somewhere) I can smile in a superior way and say ‘Ah yes, that’s a cranefly/harvestman/wolf spider/ raft spider/ one of the big hairy things that used to scare the shit out of Cardinal Wolsey.’ It’s very impressive, and I no longer run screaming out of the room.
It doesn’t mean, however, that I have the slightest intention of picking one up, but I suppose I have come to respect the honest spider, to realise that looks aren’t everything, and that unlike the house fly, it is unlikely to do me any harm by crapping on my china and giving me food poisoning or something.
However, there are limits. Earlier in the summer I spotted a green tortoise beetle dangling from a length of spider silk in our kitchen, struggling frantically. The next time I saw it, a tiny spider was moving in for the kill, and three days later all that was left was a blackened, dried out shell.
Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a soft spot for tortoise beetles, either. I suspect (though I can’t prove) that some of them have done untold damage to my plants this year, but to see it dangling there. struggling helplessly, well, I did feel somewhat guilty.
So yesterday, when I spotted a housefly in a similar predicament outside the kitchen window, I seriously wondered if I ought to set it free. I mentioned this to Mr Penry.
‘You must be mad,’ he said, ‘All summer you’ve been spraying the bloody things, trying to get rid of them, now a natural predator comes and does the job for you and you want to rush in and save it.’
He was right, of course, so I left it, consoling myself with the thought that the spider whose web it was caught in would make an appearance soon and finish it off.
Only by this morning, there was still no sign of the spider, and the fly was still alive, still struggling, caught by a single threadlike limb. What if the spider were already dead? I wondered. And so it was I got an old toothbrush and started trying to knock the fly out of the web. The best I managed was a toothbrush covered in spider silk and a struggling fly on the top. Gently I set it down on top of the rabbit hutch and waited, expecting it to soar away to freedom.
It didn’t, of course. Weighed down by the leg which had caught in the web in the first place, the fly went round and round in circles, dragging its leg like a man with a plaster cast. In the end it staggered over the edge of the rabbits hutch and down onto the path, where my St Bernard, answering a call of nature, promptly trod on it.
I suppose the moral to that is that some things are just meant to be.