I love my garden but why oh why don’t the seasons out there keep in rhythm with those in my head? At the end of August this year – August mind – August is still summer! I’m still picking beans and potatoes, gathering carrots, drying onions and plucking tomatoes and peppers. It’s summer for goodness sake! At the end of this summer month the big fat, red hot mammas of the silken threads had slung their hammocks up across every conceivable path and bush. Too early. I was still summer gardening, there was warmth and rain, the garden was blooming and those harbingers of early mists and frosty nights were laughingly tangling in my hair as I went about my business.
While on the subject of these particular ladies, just where are they all the rest of the year? Where do they hide? I never see them. I watch the packs of wolf spiders hunting in and out of the brickwork as I sit and sip cool drinks, call out to them ‘Atta girl’ when they bag some lunch; I’ve watched them lugging their young around with them, and discussed with them whether another step in evolution might make their lives easier.
I’ve discovered those pretty little white crab spiders lurking under the daisy petals, and their cousins chameleon-like on other coloured backgrounds, called them ‘sneeeaky clever little things’ as I have apologised for disturbing them. There is an endless variety in the garden working alongside me, or at least the signs of them, dangling sacs full of young nocturnal-running foliage spiders beautifully called ‘light of the elves’ in Europe. When I ferret around in the undergrowth I find like-minded souls in the sac spiders who think daytime is for huddling under their web duvets safe under bark, stones or in rolled up leaves. I say ‘sorry, sleep well’ and scatter the cats away. Tiny, tiny dwarf and linen weavers upside down and still on their horizontal webs. There are the stretchy lesser garden spiders and green orbs. So many spiders, sit still and a hundred spiders will wave ‘Hi there’.
But these red hot mammas that bring autumn nearer to summer every year, which impede my passage around the garden. These beautifully- and mysteriously-coloured creatures lazing in their hammocks with markings like semi-precious gems. These queens of their orb webs are only obvious for these few weeks. They reduce me to the ridiculous spectacle of moving around brandishing a stick or pole in front like a child playing at sword fighting. They make me walk around muttering a continual ‘sorry’ – ‘sorry’ – ‘so sorry’ – ‘over here, so sorry’ – ‘wait I’ll duck’ – ‘no really, I don’t mind going the long way round, stay, stay’. Whose garden is this anyway?
Soon there will be cosy web homes for their thousand offspring in the stupidest of places. On the side of the water butt, in the corner of window cills and, this year, just inside the car door jamb. Ready to explode into confusing turmoil – designed I suppose to confuse predators – they liked the outside of the car door actually, hanging on around every corner and vanishing back inside at the end of the thrill!! I have warned them: they put one foot inside the car itself and they are bait. Me, I don’t like spiders!