A Mild Winter, Why I Do Not Like Snow, Spiders

Approximately two seconds after I published my first post the realisation that I was going to have to follow it up dawned on me. Horror began to take a tight grip of my chest. It swiftly became that difficult second album. What if I used up all my good material in my first post? What if I suffered writer’s block? What if baby brain took over? (Baby brain, I can reveal, is not exclusive to pregnancy. It continues to get progressively worse as the apple of your eye grows into his childhood. Its pretty funny when, three months pregnant, you accidently put the milk in the cereal cupboard and your phone in the fridge door. Not so funny when your ‘baby’ is four and you’re still doing it. And this ailment is only exasperated by the arrival of a second baby. Let’s just say I’m pretty used to cold calls.) Then my baby sister saved my arse by posting this hilarious meme to my Facebook wall, and between that and a recent infestation of mosquitos in our back garden I found my inspiration.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Mozzies? In the UK? In JANUARY? You see, its supposedly been a particularly mild winter here this year. Although I personally have still been wrapping up in forty layers before attempting to venture outside, and returning stamping my multi-socked feet and rubbing my multi-gloved hands together and exclaiming “Its bloody BALTIC out!”, just loud enough for the neighbours four doors down to hear. I guess to some extent it must be true, it hasn’t snowed this Winter, for which I am very, very, grateful. For those reading this who don’t know me personally, I’m an ex-pat Kiwi. New Zealand has a warm temperate climate, and where I grew up we don’t get snow.  It just doesn’t get cold enough. If you want to see snow, you have to go up ‘The Mountain’, a good few hours drive away. Suffice to say the first time I woke up to see snow here, it was something of a novelty, and I immediately threw some clothes on to get out and go stomp around in it. However, I’m one of those people that suffer an inability to get from A-B under normal circumstances without some form of balance related miscalculation, so you can guess I pretty much immediately went arse over tit in a massive way, ripping open my leggings and bruising my knee so bad I couldn’t walk on it for two days. It kind of took some of the shine off of it.  I now view snow with trepidation. I don’t go out in it unless I absolutely have to, when it comes down to a no way around it, we-are-gonna-starve-to-death-unless-I-get-groceries situation, and definitely NOT without strapping tennis racquets to my feet as makeshift snowshoes. If I ever move to, say, Canada, I am so screwed.

But I digress. My point was, its not as cold as it usually would be at this time of year, so things that would normally be hibernating or killed off by the drop in temperature, like the mosquitos, are thriving. When first I spotted the little blighters swarming around in our back garden I was halfway through the dishes and did what anyone else in my position would do; I ran out swinging my tea towel Karate Kid styles, hoping to take out as many as I could. I looked like I was winning to begin with, until one of the little b*stards managed to get up my sleeve and bite me. The next logical step in the mist of red rage I was under by this stage, was to dig out the can of Raid I had in the depths of the cupboard In Case of Spider Emergency. I must have emptied at least half a can on them, but it didn’t do jack sh*t. A couple of them might have looked a little dizzy, but that was about it. Indestructible bloody things.

I next Googled natural remedies, hoping I had something in the house that would discourage them. Citronella, of course, was the first one to pop up, but I don’t have even one, never mind the many, many candles I’d need to get rid of this lot. Another website suggested clearing the property of stagnant/swampy water.  Yet another suggested an influx is best dealt with by installing an electric bug zapper. WTF? Stagnant/swampy water? Bug zapper? Did I move to the Bayou and not know it? Meanwhile I had completely used up the bug spray and what the hell was I going to do if I saw a (dun dun dah!), spider?!!

You’re probably at this point thinking why I have a can of bug spray for dealing with spiders. The answer is I am absolutely terrified of them, and I need a backup plan in case Mr O isn’t home to rehouse them far far away. People here don’t often understand my fear of spiders. “But you come from New Zealand, and don’t you guys have, you know, poisonous spiders there?” While we do, (the Whitetail and the Katipo), one (the Whitetail), usually lives in things like woodpiles and I’ve seen maybe all of a dozen in my life. The other I can honestly say I’ve never in the flesh. Regular ol’ Kiwi house spiders (what we call a Daddy Long Legs), are dozy looking things, similar to the UK’s Harvestman; teeny tiny itty bitty body and long gangly legs. They are hardly threatening. Here in the UK, however, house spiders are the stuff of nightmares.  They are big. Really big. In my eyes, they are pretty much comparable in size and weight to a small bear. I swear they skulk around in dark corners waiting for the right moment to pounce and maul me. They seem to be particularly fond of my front room for reasons unknown. (Speaking of which, Mr O? Where did that hairy brown armchair in the corner come from? Oh, that’s just Fred, the house spider? He moved in last night? He’s friendly enough, is he?) I am, of course, exaggerating slightly. Emphasis on the slightly.

Out of sheer interest I’ve done a little research on spiders this week. One study I found suggested there are an average of 130 spiders per square metre in the UK (I nearly threw the computer out the window in horror at this point, fortunately I read a bit further to find most are minuscule. I would be writing this on a plane on my way back to New Zealand otherwise). The study worked out UK spiders consume on average 0.09 grams of bug each per day. So that, by my calculations, works out to be 11.7 grams of bug per square metre per day. It doesn’t sound like a lot, until you multiply that by the number of square metres in the UK. It comes out as 2,864,394 KILOGRAMS of bug consumed by spiders per day in the UK alone.  I found another interesting article (based on the same study and working with the estimation that an average person weighs 150 pounds), that calculated spiders globally eat the bug equivalent of 12,400,000 people per day. PER DAY. That’s a lot of freaking bugs man!

So I maybe wouldn’t mind them so much if they stayed sight unseen and just got on with their spidey business, (yeah, I’m looking at you here Fred). I don’t really want to be up to my armpits in bugs, thanks. But due to the afore mentioned unseasonably warm weather they seem to be confused into thinking its still Autumn, which is the time of year they like to run into the middle of the room and sit there on the rug, glaring at me menacingly. According to my research it’s a kind of mating call. Like a “Heeeeeeey ladies, here I am, look at me, check out my fiiiiiiiine as opisthosoma!” (That would be spider butt to you and me.) I personally see it as more of a “Heeeeeeeey human, I see you. I see your feet on the ground there, I’d move those before I eat them suckers, you looking the right kind of tasty.”  Mr O, in all his wisdom, once tried to make me feel better by telling me although some species of house spider might bite me, its not that painful, just a bit like a wasp sting. I mean c’mon! Wasps are another on my list that instantly motivate me to run from the room screaming “Please dear God, I’m not ready to DIE!” I was stung (painfully I might add), on the foot when I was fourteen or so and had a reaction that caused my ankle to swell to elephant like proportions. Not overly keen to repeat that experience. So thanks for that tidbit. I now have to sleep with one eye open and my hand resting on something large and heavy.

I really should to get back to dealing with the mozzies. Its been four days, and is completely beyond a joke now, so I’ve decided to get a bit more tactical about it about it.

So, if you wish to find me this week I’ll be camped out in the kitchen, in my camo gear with a bazooka strapped to my back, practising my commando rolls. I would avoid the front room if I were you, I haven’t been in there lately but last I looked Fred was looking a bit hungry. I did have a brief thought I could simply let him out to eat the mozzies, shut the kitchen door behind him, kill two birds with one stone… but I’m a bit afraid if I let him out he’ll eat one of the kids.