Those spiders had been at their work, determined to bring a bit of bling to this closedown season of the year.
They had spun fantastical creations out of their customary gossamer. Each pine tree appeared decorated for Christmas. The diamond swathes of silk had caught the air’s inherent moisture and made creations worthy of Tiffany.
As I looked more closely at these fabulous inventions I was reminded of the intricacy of Darth Vader’s Death Star.
These were not just webs, they were landscapes. Peaks rose, and troughs fell, and I could just imagine all the little Storm-Trooper Spiders loading onto a spaceship ready to sort the Spider Rebels out once again.
I wonder, I thought vacantly, as I turned to examine each new wonder: I wonder why they only appear when it’s misty.
The logical area of my cluttered gladstone bag of a mind heaved an exasperated sigh. It drew me gently but firmly to the realisation that the webs are there all the time.
We just don’t see them: invisible death stars, woven tapestries of terror, utterly invisible. Hidden works of predatory art.
Every night, I and my favourite invention spend a little quiet time together.
I switch on Radio Four and listen to whatever they have to offer. I potter around and assemble the singular paraphernalia which will help me through my task. A measuring jug, a teaspoon, a tablespoon….
I open the top of a box and I just pour in stuff. Flour, oil, salt, sugar, dried milk.
I press a button when this soothing routine is over. And I just walk away.
Because this is a bread making machine. The moment I start it, it begins to whir, sporadically. And in the middle of the night, a delicious baked bread smell steals up the stairs to delight us and infuriate the dog.
This is not my first bread machine. The last one I had began to walk. It would potter across the working surface, ponderous whir by ponderous whir. And I would come along and push it back, and it would start out on its odyssey all over again.
One night, I was not there to push it back and it clearly decided it must investigate how lemmings feel. Over the side it went, landing with the most enormous crash. When I bolted in to investigate, it was hotching fatalistically across the floor. Such is life, it seemed to say, and even with the most catastrophic of events you just carry on….don’t mind me, gov’nor….
Of course, I have a new one. Its work, like the spider’s, is hidden. I never see how it turns all those humble ingredients into a wonderful home made loaf, mouth watering and ready for Maddie and Felix’s sandwiches. Like Rumplestiltskin, it simply turns straw into gold.
That which the eye cannot see is so often a source of wonderment. And a delightful surprise. But hidden things can be mysterious, sometimes. And even sinister.
Sixty or so miles away from where I write, beneath Corsham, among the rolling hills of Wiltshire, They built an underground town out of an old Bath stone quarry.
Who They are, I’m not entirely sure. I’m thinking it must be the 4000 central govenment employees and officials who would use it as a bolthole in the event of nuclear war.
Stretching for 35 acres, with its own underground lake and boasting 60 miles of roads, this was set to be the Emergency Government War Headquarters in the event of catastrophe.
If the worst had happened it would have held Prime Minister Harold MacMillan, his cabinet, their aides, an army of civil servants, their cooks and their cleaners. Amongst others.
Twelve huge tanks stored the fuel needed to keep huge generators going for three months.
Pictures show vast expanses of uncompromisingly stark utility decor, lit with the striplights most of us tried to throw away many years ago. It is grim viewing. It would have been even grimmer living the dream.
My friend Sonja used to live practically on top of it. And you’d never know, as you sat in her leafy garden barbecuing sausages and watching cats stroll mildly by.
As any three year old will tell you, hidden can be very funny indeed, especially when it then pops out and shouts “Boo!”.
My favourite hidden story belongs to my husband, who, amongst the many press jollies he has been privy to, was once invited to the launch of Euro Disney in Paris.
It was one of the times you really envy the journos. He was put up in a brand new hotel on the resort and presented with a Disney credit card. He was invited to charge merchandise beyond the dreams of avarice to that little piece of plastic, all courtesy of Walt’s successors.
The Press seized the opportunity to review every ride with gusto. It really was the jolly of all jollies. My husband headed straight for its masterly centrepiece: the ride which actually proceeded its film: Pirates of The Caribbean.
Now I had better be careful here. I have Disney members and connoisseurs reading this blog daily. But I think it is safe to say that Disney is master of the illusion. The Park’s raison d’etre is to entertain its visitors with rides of such breathtaking theatre and make-believe that one might actually believe one was there.
These guys are showmen, and they show so beautifully.
Phil was on the ride, whipping past fabulous backdrops, crammed with stunning figures, a whole world of mysterious piratical swashbuckling. He was captivated.
Right until the moment the ride broke down.
The journalists sat politely waiting for rescue by their Gallic masters of ceremony.
Finally – enfin- they shuffled in, and decided that the Press must be removed before the ride was repaired. They were subjected to the unexpected indignity of being taken out through the back of the ride.
Instantly, the magic vanished. Colour became monochrome, sounds and sensations plummeted the writers into to the backstage version of the French Disney dream.
Where a group of unshaven, dour, shrugging, gesticulating men , dressed in pirate garb, were working their way through cigarette after cigarette, putting the Gallic world to rights as only they know how.
It would have perhaps been better that these particular Disney employees remained hidden.