Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Dances with Spiders

Aren't spiders wonderful? Some people love them, some people hate them. I am somewhere between the two, but leaning more towards the latter. I've never had a problem with money spiders - they're too small and supposed to bring you good fortune. I did have a problem with a big black spider which came racing up my bed sheets when I was a child after I had just gone to bed. I was reading one of my favourite comic books before putting the light out. The moment I caught sight of this uninvited guest, something primordial inside of me screamed in abject terror and I was out of that bed a lot quicker than I got into it! My dad, hearing my hapless cries of distress finally came up and flattened it under the heel of a shoe. I slept very uneasily that night!
Some years later, I photographed the fellow pictured on the right. Although you can't tell from the photo, its about half the size of an adult hand, green body with yellow markings and red spots. He's (or she's - do spiders have gender???) a tree spider I photographed from a respectable distance with a telephoto lens. Even then, I couldn't stop shaking. At the time he was suspended on his web which was spread between two trees near to where I was living in Singapore. They can give you a nasty bite, though I am told they are not fatal. A few days after this shot was taken, a friend of mine, not seeing the web, ran through the centre of it and spotted the spider when it was perched on the middle of his chest. He panicked when he saw it, and the spider very quickly met an untimely end! On another occasion, I was standing under a tree, when one of these same spiders dropped out of the branches and landed on my right shoulder. I felt it land, but my friend (the one just mentioned) told me to stand still and don't move. I didn't know at this stage it was a tree spider sat on my shoulder! If I had, I probably wouldn't be here now writing about it - I'd be dead with shock!! He then grapped a thick magazine, rolled it up, and zapped it off my shoulder. On yet another occasion, again in Singapore, I was sat on the toilet at the "Halfway House" Restaurant and Bar at Bukit Timah. I was sat very peacefully, when something black caught my peripheral vision. Turning my head to look at the wall beside me was a big black, hairy, fat bodied man-eating shit a brick spider! Well, I can tell you, I have never left a toilet in such a panic and at such speed in my life! In 2004, I took my wife on holiday to Singapore. Asking a local where all the spiders were - I hadn't spotted one, he told me there wasn't any! Somewhat surprised I asked him why, and he told me that some years previous, the government had taken a decision to spray the island to destroy all the crawlie nasties! No doubt, this was a ruse to attract more visitors to the island, including arachnaphobics! Sometimes money is more important than wildlife!
A couple of weeks ago, my wife asked me to clean out the garden shed - I get all the good jobs. Garden sheds are notorious for housing various varieties of our arachnid friends, and this fact probably had something to do with my wife asking me to do it! Well, I can tell you the place was crawling with them. I vacuumed them all up with our old cylinder vacuum cleaner. The bag was writhing with spiders when I deposited it in the wheelie bin. The shed was devoid of spiders. Long may it be so - but I doubt it!

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