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This spider was the size of an Alsatian. It stared me out across the kitchen, basically saying 'Come ahead, square go'.. Quick, blow up the planet and get to the shuttles.

Byline: John Niven FANGS BUT NO THANKS

There are some certainties you hold on to living in the UK, some absolute truths.

Summer will start somewhere in early August and last for three weeks. This will officially be called a "record heatwave".

Michael Gove is incapable of opening his mouth without inducing blood–flaming rage in all right–thinking people.

Our appetite for TV talent shows is so bottomless that we surely soon we'll see Strictly Come Baking On Ice and, perhaps most importantly of all, THERE ARE NO BAD SPIDERS IN THE UK.

That's right, in the UK, we all know there are no eight–legged freaks lurking in the bushes, attic or potting shed that can bite you with anything even approaching a bee sting. Except, apparently, that's no longer true…

Enter the false widow spider, the tiny (smaller than a 20p coin) beastie apparently recently responsible for everything from a man nearly losing his leg, to a football player having to have emergency surgery, to the actual closure of a school.

Yes, according to numerous press reports in the last week, the false widow is on the move, spreading across the country and destroying everything in its path.

I have two reactions to this story. My first is the sane, rational one that goes, "Hmm, I'm sure this is very exaggerated and that false widow spiders present us with no real threat." Unlike, say, the threat posed to us by our game–show–host–faced–terror–buffoon of a health secretary Jeremy "it's the immigrants what have done for us" Hunt.

However, my second reaction is far less logical. It's the reaction of someone very afraid of spiders and more along the lines of: "DEAR GOD! THEY'RE COMING! Let's just blow up the planet and take our chances in space! Quick – get to the shuttles!"

Is it possible for me to describe how much I loathe and fear spiders? I don't know if there's a childhood incident it's all rooted in but, my God, I cannot bear them.

This time of year, autumn, is, of course, the worst season for the spider–phobic. I have a garden office that is situated behind a thick row of raspberry bushes. Come October every year, this area has basically some kind of Spider Pride march – hundreds of them casually hanging out there, fearless and proud, banging back cocktails and eyeing you up.

If you could hear me making my way through these bushes to go to work in the morning you'd think that a nervous eightyear–old girl was being forced to watch the Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

It's the main reason why, whenever friends have told me over the years they're thinking about emigrating to somewhere like Australia, I've wanted to scream, "ARE YOU CRAZY?" They have the funnelweb there – a spider that can bite through your thumbnail. They have tarantulas the size of dinner plates and redbacks and black widows.

From everything I can read about Aussie spiders, it seems like all they really like doing is hiding in your house, or garden or car until you "accidentally" disturb them – probably by doing something crazy like putting on the shoe they are lurking in – and they can officially bite you to pieces. They're like the spider equivalent of the madmen who lurk near the bar, dying to bump into you so they can say, "DID YOU SPILL MY PINT?"

Or there's places like Laos, where they have the world's biggest spider, the giant huntsman, which has a leg span of more than a foot and is apparently poisonous but not deadly.

I beg to differ – if I ever saw one of these in the wild, I would be dead instantly from the world's biggest heart attack.

But we didn't have to worry about any of that here. Until now. The false widow apparently came to the UK in the late 19th century, when it migrated from the Canary Islands.

(This makes it officially the stupidest spider on the planet. What, was it sick of all that year–round sunshine and lovely beaches? Did it say to the wife, "Hola, Mrs False Widow, you know what? Let's take the kids and go and live in Britain, I hear it's lovely over there. I've got a cousin living in a greenhouse in Kent. Their benefits system looks awesome.")

"Oh it's more scared of you than you are of it." This would be my Mum's mantra when we were kids. "Yes Mum," I'd want to say, "but I don't have EIGHT LEGS and ABOUT 14 EYES and MASSIVE FANGS.'

The other thing is, Mum, when I walked in the kitchen the other day and there was a spider the size of an Alsatian (OK, possibly a slight exaggeration) sitting on the worktop, it wasn't the spider who ran out of the room screaming and talking about having to sell the house, was it? No. That was me.

The spider just sat there staring me out. Basically saying, "Come ahead, square go.'"

Yeah, so you know what, Mum? I'm not really buying it.
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Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Oct 27, 2013
Words:869
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