My wife and I had planned to have a few days at home alone post-Christmas but discovered we were sharing the house with hordes of small uninvited guests. Maria was sitting on a sofa reading a book when a small spider scuttled across the cushion towards her. She allowed it to run onto her finger and deposited it in a plant pot in the corner of the room. She's like that and has been known to capture giant species under a pint glass and take them outdoors. Kindness personified. As long as they only appear singly. And then she worries in case she's deprived a family of its father.
Back to her book and a minute later another spider scuttled across the cushion and she wondered if it was the same one. Had she made a friend? But others were on the sofa and the curtains. Scuttling in great numbers.
Now it was her turn to scuttle, across the room to another sofa next to the Christmas tree, while she took stock. I, of course, thought it amusing. Until she let out a shriek and pointed at the tree which was standing on a corner table.
The tree was alive with small arachnids, playing in the branches, abseiling merrily from one level to another, leaving gossamer web trails that looked like spray-on glitter. They gave the impression of having burst from a nest like a cluster bomb intent on world domination.
The tree was only of modest size and came from a supermarket, already potted and bagged in a net. The nest had been in place on the tree, waiting to burst forth when the central heating attained a temperature to its liking.
I grabbed the pot in which the tree stood and dashed outside to stand it on the decking at the side of the house, a manoeuvre that caused me to bend forward and push my head into the top of the tree which appeared to be the location of intense spider activity. Which made sense. From this elevated position they could have been spying out the front room and despatching columns to establish outposts.
Had I transferred arachnid HQ onto my head?
I retreated to the bathroom to brush my locks until I was sure I was clear which was when I realised I was not particularly perturbed because the spiders were small. Which made no sense. If viewed closely, they would look just the same as normal spiders. Horrible.
I didn't fancy sharing a house with them, particularly if these were just hatched and would grow into man eaters.
Maria began to wield her armoury of vacuum cleaners while I went on a hunt, discovering them on walls, curtains, furniture and ceiling. I headed off a reconnaissance party that had made it to the foot of our stairs. Death and destruction is not what you wish at a time of peace and goodwill but there was no option. There was no more Mr Nice Guy. This time they had to go.
The tree was left outside, still decorated in baubles and battery operated fairy lights, and we have let the rain and wind of Storm Eva wash away any infestation. We've strung more lights on the palm leaves of an indoor plant. Maybe we'll do the same next year, as well. It's safer than a spider in a fir tree.
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