This morning I was up earlier than usual: a combination of two events which conspired to collide. Firstly, I had taken paracetamol/caffeine cocklail which rendered me spiral-eyed; and secondly, I knew that at 8:15, my nieces the Princesses would arrive.
After a turbo-caffeine-driven walk with the dog, in which every gradient seemed effortless, I prepared breakfast and awaited the arrival of the two little beloved blond bombshells .
They arrived promptly, I admired one’s toy owl, chatted to the other about the impending reorganisation of their shared bedroom at home, and then they disappeared happily to trash the place.
Whch they do with such style, in thrall to the enthusiastic leadership provided by Maddie and Felix.
The dressing-up box sent out its customary tractor beam and all four were drawn inexorably towards it. A short squabble ensued, when there appeared to be a shortage of pretty dresses.
Then I said they could upend my wardrobe to find something suitable. Seconds later everyone was dressed to kill.
Which is good, because at that moment I was alerted to the presence of more than four legs attached to one body in my bedroom.
Maddie ran to me with that face that presages doom so very well. There’s a spider in your room, she informed me , right there.
I followed her gaze with mounting horror.
There it sat, eightsquare, on my carpet, the size of a jam jar lid, with that unsettling boniness which registers far beneath my conscious thinking frontal lobes, back there where fight-or-flight is king.
Now I love spiders in their place. Where they belong. In fiction. I have marvelled over Shelob, shed a tear over Charlotte’s web, lectured children in best Julie Andrews style over many an Anansi story.
But this spider had chosen reality: 9:34am in my bedroom. It sat there telepathically communicating: think you’re a big cheese, eh? Conquer the world, would you, with your opposable thumbs? Well come over here, and see what someone a fiftieth of your size with eight legs can do.
There was a ray of hope, though. It had chosen an unfortunate patch. It stood, oblivious, just inches from the sleeping dog, who eats anything which moves and a lot that doesn’t.
One thing was certain. Not wild horses. Not even wild llamas, commissioned by The People’s Republic of China, would drag me into that room at that precise moment in time.
One of the golden haired princesses stepped forward. She held up a hand authoritatively and halted me, mid-screech.
“Auntie Kate, don’t worry. I’m good at this. I’ll sort it out.”
There was a short silence while I processed the fact that this pint sized Dresden doll, currently dressed in Maddie’s first holy communion dress, was about to dice with such very deadly danger.
Before I could swallow the last of my shredded dignity and croak Yes, Please, she was gone, and returned with a plastic beaker and a newspaper to despatch our eight-legged interloper humanely to its outside lair. Shudder.
The dog, delighted by this piece of masterly misdirection, had taken matters, once again, into his own jaws.
Clearly, the spider had got above itself. It had deluded itself that it was, indeed, master of the universe, and begun to scale that large adjacent hairy mountain.
When we returned with the Humane Spider Rescuing Kit, Eight-Legs was nowhere to be seen. I can only draw the conclusion that it met its end between the jaws of a terrier for whom, for once, size really mattered.
But you see, this is only a respite. Because Eight-legs, to quote from a two thousand year old story, is legion.
If your dog eats one, there will always be another to emerge crawling eerily up over the duvet and set you screeching in a deplorably unladylike fashion in your jim-jams.
They are out there, oh yes, especially this time of year, and ladies and gentlemen, they’re coming in.
Our British spiders are totally benign, unless you’re a house fly. So what is it about these creatures that instils such dread? My thinking mind is relaxed about such essential, patient pest control experts. But somehow, my reflex response clocks a predator, no matter how small, no matter how harmless.
Maybe it’s that unsettling patience and intelligence with which they hunt.
Spiders’ hunting strategies are the stuff of nightmares: some trap their catches in sticky webs, some lassoo them with bolas. Others mimic their prey to avoid being seen until that perfect predatory moment. Hunters of the genus Portia show signs of intelligence. They choose tactics. They evaluate them. They develop new ones.
My friend Lydia told me a solution to this problem. Mark my words well. For it is Citronella.
The deal is this: spiders taste with their feet.
And they hate citrus flavours.
Order a shedload of citronella from EBay. But it’s potent stuff, so rather than set the little araneus’ tootsies sizzling, you pop to the chemists and secure one of those little handbag-sized travel spray bottles.
Fill the bottle and pop in a few drops of the citronella. And spray it around every opening in your house.
They hate the taste, they pass over, and next door becomes the victim of the eight-legged menace.
I should have done this months ago, when Lydia first gave me the tip. But like much in my life, I have left it too late, and now They’re Here.
So it looks like I shall have to depend, for defence, on an angelic little girl in a first holy communion dress with a cup and a newspaper: and a dog with outlandish and ever-changing apetites.