OK, what is the deal with spiders this year?
I have already had too many close encounters of the eight-legged kind, and we are nowhere near what is traditionally considered to be spider season!
Has that fearsome episode shifted? Or has it in fact - gulp - expanded?
I was deeply and sweetly in the land of nod a couple of weeks ago when I gradually grew aware of my phone vibrating next to my bed.
I peered groggily at the screen; it was my son phoning from upstairs. More importantly, it was 2.38am.
In my bleary barely conscious state, I answered the call, and was subjected to a prolonged period of whispering that utterly flummoxed me.
I asked my son to repeat himself several times, and was eventually able to discern the dreaded term 'spider' from among the jumble of sotto voce vocalisations.
Feeling bizarrely emboldened by fatigue, I crept out of bed, tiptoed out of the bedroom, crossed the hall and ascended the stairs, to discover my elder daughter and son stood in their prospective bedroom doorways.
Inquiries made, I swiftly ascertained that there was indeed a spider on the loose, above the bathroom door.
I watched in morbid fascination as it clung to the wall, dropped a couple of heart-stopping centimetres, found its eight feet and gripped the wall once more.
I could hear my husband snoring below, and knew waking him would prove problematic; it was ruefully evident that I would have to conquer this crisis alone.
Sneaking stealthily past the spider, I seized an empty cup, then tipped the contents of a bedroom chair onto the floor and carried it to the scene of the arachno-crime, positioning it slightly to the left of where the spider would land should it make a scurrilous and speedy descent.
With exemplary presence of mind for a lifelong arachnophobe - accompanied by frighteningly fast heart rate - I swooped, trapping the beast beneath the cup, then commanded the children to provide me with paper.
Freshly furnished, I gingerly slid the paper beneath the cup edge, confining the spider without catching any of its many limbs - always a distressing development - and levered the arachno-prison away from the
Nimbly - probably - I hopped down from the chair, flew downstairs, exited the house via the front door, traversed the ghostly garden, navigated the gate, crossed the pavement, and despatched the spider onto the mercifully quiet and deserted road with a robust shake, waiting until I saw it scurry northwards before darting back into the house.
Once my offspring were reassured that the poly-limbed fiend had been safely relocated, we were all able to return to bed.
It must have been a one-off, I reasoned with myself, as I drifted back to sleep; far too early in the year for spider season.
A few mornings later, I got up, opened the curtains, and heard a distinct thud. To my abject horror, on the windowsill lay the black, shrivelled husk of a spider, legs drawn in, immobile.
I stared at it, paralysed, for some time, rationalising that it must have been dead before it fell, hence its loss of grip.
My husband, noticing my stationary stance, asked what was wrong. As I shakily explained, another audible thump manifested itself.
Convinced that we were about to be rained upon by multiple arachnids, I turned back to the window, and was aghast to see the spider had disappeared - clearly, it had been feigning its demise and was seeking revenge for having been dislodged from the curtains.
I felt something brush against my bare foot and jumped onto the bed with a piercing shriek.
Extensive searching - by my husband; I did not relish relinquishing the safety of the bed - revealed an absence of arachnid.
Evidently, it was on the prowl somewhere in the house.
Things took a darker turn as my husband casually informed me that he had recently seen a spider himself, in the bottom of the house. With an egg sack on its back.
With prudent haste, he verified that he had removed it from the property.
Nevertheless - and it is with a heavy heart, and with the utmost empathy and reluctance - I have no choice but to declare spider season open. Good luck, one and all.
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