I have a confession to make and I know I will not be alone when I say I am scared of spiders. There. Not many things scare me, I like snakes, amphibians of any kind delight me. I do not find that big dogs, wild cats or birds of prey faze me at all. No I am reduced to a panic stricken wreck in nano seconds by a creature sometimes smaller than a finger nail! A disgrace to all my supposed powers of reason and common sense.
Its not as if I was brought up in a country where fearing the little beasties made sense because they would suck your brains out - no- wait a minute that’s zombies! but would inject poison into ones system. No this is the UK and until a few years ago our spiders more deadly weapon was its stare!!(I understand some foreign spiders are colonising our shores now)
I do not remember where this fear came from, no-one else in the family have the problem. I like to lay the blame on the film The Incredible Shrinking Man’ which I watched once as a child in a room above a pub whilst on our family holiday. Wet days found us searching out these improvised cinemas and it rained a great deal in August (when Dad had his annual Holiday) I sat entranced through so many inappropriate films but this one well the memories of the fight between minuscule man whose only defence was a needle or a pin and huge spider with a million legs and fangs - okay not a million but up on the silver screen it was a very disturbing fight scene. Can I really say that Hollywood is the reason for my unreason? Well no, because the film came out in 1957 and I had the fear well before then!
They terrified me through my childhood. I would lash out at them - killed a fair few but that added to the terror because I knew - don't ask how I just did - I knew the dead had mates, had family, just waiting to take their revenge. I also sussed where they waited - under my bed in those dark murky shadows they sat with patience of the ages and if they ever saw the chance they would grab my ankles and drag me down to. . I can not describe the horrors they would drag me too! I never gave them a chance I would stand a couple of feet away from the bed and jump in. Thus foiling their plans. Getting up in the night for the loo meant a huge stride to avoid them. Ah whoever said those days of childhood were the best of times - definitely the worst of times for me!
Once I awoke to find a big black hairy beastie sitting on my white pillow inches only from my face. Did I die? No. Did I want to? Oh yes. Frozen into complete immobility I lay watching it watching me. I knew one movement on my part and it would spring for the kill, I knew it, I knew it so well I wet myself, I cared not. Eventually Mum, sick to the back teeth of calling me, arrived in a whirlwind of irritation and impatiently removed my tormentor and then I cared I was wet - she was so cross! Laundry in those far of days with no mixed fibres, hand filled washing machines, mangles and no drying facilities was a chore in the true meaning of the word (she did love me- times were different). I was six.
Eventually I decided that spiders were so unlovely they would have no mates or family members who would care (well I think I did - but sometimes I have an uneasy feeling of being watched!) Discovering that female spiders sometimes ate their partners cheered me no end - except that . . . well she was a powerful force if she would eat her mate.
I bought a book on spiders when I was about eleven and tried to understand them it didn't take the fear away but I began to see an awful beauty to them, a sneaking admiration. I tried to appreciate that they helped remove the danger that flies presented. My reason told me they were friends, my reason tried hard, the only snag? I wasn’t frightened of flies - I should have been but they didn't terrify me.
I admire reason, respect science and the laws of nature. I am, I discovered quite recently, a bit of a control freak. I need to have control on my life, my environment, control of my decisions. This thing about spiders was crazy was undignified and pathetic.
I remember rescuing a spider from a sand pit on the edge of a child's spade to stop them killing it and walking slowly toward the bushes, surrounded by admiring children as I explained how good spiders were, how this one was more afraid of them then they it. All the while it climbed steadfastly toward my hand. I placed it on the earth just as one leg extended to touch my finger. I was 20.
I remember in Rhodesia, as it was then, when looking after some children, asking their father to remove the ‘friendly’ spiders that sat on the ceiling above ones head at night ready to catch the mosquitoes - no way I said out of the children’s earshot could I sleep thus, even of I got bitten my the mossies, which I did! I was 22.
I remember once, when vacuuming, a thread from a reel of black cotton got caught up in the process and as it unravelled it skittered around the floor – a monstrous spider from the corner of my eye - leaving me freaked out. I was 23.
Then I went to Australia!