I walked, cursing, around the Autumnal forest yesterday morning, because I had forgotten to bring my camera.

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.

26 thoughts on “Hidden

  1. This is beautiful. I am always amazed at how people seem to have written about the weekend theme before I have posted it.

    I had to giggle at the breadmaker pretending to be a lemming.

      1. Always lovely to have fresh perspective, Sidey:-) Thanks for coming to have a look. This is one blog where a lot of people come to read the comments, just as much as as the article…everyone has a view, and they’re all fabulous. I love your theme idea. It’s a very generous take on blogging- getting everyone else to contribute instead of blowing one’s own trumpet as I am wont to do…

  2. gorgeous thoughts and lovely combination of sentiment and memory. kate you have such a magical way of spinning webs and making it work: spiders, bread making machines, dark vadar, disneyland, pirates, underground doomsday bunkers.

    i adore your word weaves.

    1. Ooooh thanks, Uglyearring, never thought of them like that before. I’ve always styled them ramblings. What a lovely comment. See you at yours in a bit?

      Loved your washerwomen. Those two little spaces said more than I could in words. Quite humbling actually.

  3. Bread making in this modern world, so much easier than before.
    My machine hasn’t learned to walk yet, but is getting rather ancient. Its on its third mixing blade and its second bread tin. I stand the tin on the scale and add everything including the water by weighing it, pop it on three three hour cycle and take it out to cool BEFORE bed! Why?

    Much easier to cut for the sandwiches!

  4. My current recipe:
    Seeded bread… a rich source of phytoestrogens!

    (My bread maker is a Panasonic… where 425g flour makes a medium sized loaf.)

    Stand the bread maker tin on the electronic scales, blade in place.
    1 level teaspoon yeast suitable for bread-makers
    just under 1 level teaspoon salt
    1 level tablespoon of sugar (or measure out an equivalent amount of malt extract / treacle/ honey)
    2 level tablespoons of soya flour
    1 table spoon milk powder
    2 table spoons linseeds
    1 tablespoon poppy seeds
    1 tablespoon sunflower seeds
    2 table spoon of sesame seeds

    zero the scales then
    425 g of bread flour (any mixture of white / brown and wholemeal)

    zero the scales again and
    315g of water

    finally add 2 table spoons olive oil or other oil

    Set the bread-maker to ‘medium sized loaf’ – and wait.

    Here is a link to tell you more about phytoestrogens: http://www.dietaryfiberfood.com/phytoestrogen.php

    1. Rich pickings tonight, Pseu….glad you love the Tiffany webs, and I’m printing off the recipe to try out tomorrow.
      You’re so right about taking the bread out. It is the mark of a perfectionist, just what I would expect from a perfect Haiku writer. The reason I do not is simply because I am usually too disorganised in the early evening, and too idle after ten. Plus, the dog might find it and eat it. And it wouldn’t be the first time.

      1. What a dog, to eat a whole loaf…
        Maybe its because I’m terrible in the mornings… I need the bread to cut easily. Fewer tantrums that way.

  5. LOL!!! That bread machine image is priceless, Kate! Oh, and the spider web one – gorgeous! Altogether a fabulous post. Know what you mean about forgetting the camera – I get sternly spoken to about the cursing sometimes 😀

    1. Me too. But you see something, don’t you, and the camera is a way to catch time before it moves on. I’ll never get that moment up there again. But I’m sure there will be other times:-)

  6. Ew! Spiders webs: such clingy things. Marvelous wandering post as usual.

    Reminds me of my first meeting with the in-laws. They forgot – I hope – to clear the path between the hedges of webs (an every evening spider building occurrence) before my arrival, which meant I entered the house slapping at my head and shoulders in case I had become spider transport, yelling at my fiance to ‘Get them off, get them off!’

    1. Now I wish I had a time machine and a teleporter, just so I could see that scene for myself, Liz.
      By the way, apropos of nothing at all to do with spiders and the post, you draw quite exquisitely. Using both pencils and words. We love our daily visits.

  7. PS I meant to say I love the photo. Such fantastic light.
    Isobel and I have been discussing camera: any guidance from you on a smallish camera with good macro options, please?

    1. Thanks Pseu! I use a great big unwieldy Nikon I’m afraid, the Nikon D5000….it is wonderful, though. I carry it around in a nice handbag so no-one knows what’s inside. I have a little compact Nikon in my handbag all the time, but it doesn’t have the lens. And the lens is what makes that depth.

      I’m no expert though- have a look at Naomi Estment’s site for some really spectacular stuff:-)

      1. Thanks I will. Two family members already have posh SLRs… I just want something to ‘catch a moment’….

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