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Matt Cammish Week 2: 25 September

26-sep-mainI found a spider in the bathroom the other day. It wasn’t actually threatening me—no suggestion that it was about to drop onto my scalp, paralyse me with a quick jab of venom and lay its eggs in my brain—it just perched in a high corner of the shower, waggling its eyestalks at me suggestively in a hi-there-big-boy sort of way. So naturally one of us had to go.

I have something of a phobia towards spiders. It’s not exactly irrational—when I was a child I awoke one night to find one scuttling across my face. Nightmares involving spiders sealing my eyes and mouth with webs swiftly followed. Of course, I know that British house spiders are harmless, they’re more afraid of us and their natural prey is about the size of a pollen grain—I understand all that. But then again, their looks are against them: they do rather resemble something assembled by Satan on one of his days off from bits of twine and matchsticks and leftover evil he found lying around on his workbench.


The Stash – plenty of ganseys still to knit…

And it’s not just a question of looks. Take lions, now: they kill creatures for food—cute creatures, too, the kind that appear on greetings cards. And yet there’s a sporting chance when a lion goes after a gazelle that the gazelle might get away; it’s a sort of 200-metre hurdles with the chance of a decent meal instead of a gold medal at the end. (And if you look closely at nature documentaries you can see the lions give a little nod when the prey eludes them, a gesture of respect between equals.)


The Geo of Sclaites at Duncansby Head in the fog

Not so, spiders: they basically mug their victims in dark alleys, knifing them in the back, then taking their wallets and going off sniggering. If they had any sporting instinct, instead of sneakily weaving webs to trap the unwary, they’d build hang gliders and go after moths and flies in the air. And you never see a spider with its back turned, counting to a hundred under its breath, while its prey runs away and hides, do you? There you are, then: I rest my case.

Meanwhile, one knits. Rather a lot, in fact, so that I might even reach the gussets in the next week. What a great pattern this is: a real classic. (I tell myself it will be big enough when it’s blocked, but the pattern does rather concertina in on itself so that I seem to be knitting the gansey equivalent of a surgical stocking, or a tourniquet.)

As for the spider, of course I didn’t kill it. Most house spiders you see at this time of year are perfectly blameless males26-sep-close-up looking for a mate; and anyway, every spider you see means up to 2,000 fewer bugs in your house each year. No, I trapped him in a jam jar and released him back to the wild, along with some loose change and a caution not to spend it all on drink.

[By the way, Margaret has eluded the guards again and escaped to America for a month. As a result I’m afraid the quality of photos on the website will take a dive, rather, and I won’t be able to add any images to the Readers’ Gallery. Normal service will be resumed just in time for Halloween…]

13 comments to Matt Cammish Week 2: 25 September

  • lorraine

    Gordon- I don’t like spiders but I have a cat who will look for them on the ceiling so that I can get it before it drops on my face.

    Centipedes are worse- they live in the drains and move at lightning speed.

    The Gansey is looking good- and amazingly spider-free.

    • Gordon

      Hi Lorraine, I now have an image of your cat with little suction cups on its paws scaling the walls and going after spiders on the ceiling…

    • Gordon

      Ha, brilliant!

      The scariest spiders I think I’ve seen in movies are the ones in the second Harry Potter film. Very creepy, perhaps because they were so numerous, and so quick.

      Though I was once traumatised by watching the children’s tv show Blue Peter when they visited a zoo, and the keeper dropped a hairy tarantula into the open palm of one of the presenters and she just froze as it began to pick its way slowly up her forearm. I count that as my first near-death experience…

  • Sharon in Surrey

    Good thing you don’t live on the Wet Coast!! We have Wolf spiders that look like mini tarantulas, hairy legs’n’all. But they bite – big painful bites that get infected immediately & turn into an emergency quickly. They hide in bushes & get you when you’re gardening. Good thing they’re very shy & only bite when touched. I had never heard of Wolf spiders until I got bit as an adult after spending most of my childhood/teen years tramping, camping & playing in the bush!!! Whew.
    Nice gansey pattern!! I’m not a big fan of the ‘all over’ patterns but this one is very nice. Can’t wait to see it on!! And I hope you survive till Margaret gets back.

    • Gordon

      Hi Sharon, isn’t nature wonderful? A spider that preys on gardeners… (I’m safe, because I hate gardening!)

      One of the reasons I like living in dear old cold, dark, damp Britain is the noticeable absence of deadly spiders, rattlesnakes and basking sharks, at least in my garden. I prefer lovely old daddy-long-legs, blundering about the place like an arachnid version of the Wright brothers plane, all balsa wood and brown paper, rather adorable in fact; as opposed to the trap-sprung poisonous death of most spiders, bless their little hearts.

  • Jane

    Gosh, Gordon, you are just motoring on this one, magnificent work, and I love the pattern and colour. Your stash is great and so tidy!

    Compassion to spiders is essential! Only that way do we feel a bit better about it all. I am not keen on the ones with the colourful “coats of arms” on their tummies! Take care!

    • Gordon

      Hi Jane, yes I’m an old man in a hurry, as the saying goes. (I’m going for the All-comers Most Ganseys in a Calendar Year record—this will be my sixth, if you can believe that.) Though you’ll still have to wait a bit till I can wear it, unless i don it like a hula skirt; something I am only prepared to contemplate after (a) a lot of money or (b) whisky. We could start a fund?

      Compassion to all living things, I think, especially if we subscribe to the theory that we are all one life force shared between different bodies, as some philosophies propose. One day I shall be reincarnated as a spider prophet and shall preach a message of brotherly love and vegetarianism (“I am the life, the truth and the web” or “Go and prepare ye the web of the Lord”). And then probably get eaten by the first female I try to mate with. (Again.)

      It’s easy to have a neat stash when it’s mostly cones of all the same size. I put this up as some reassurance that gansey are going to be part of my life for a year or two yet…

  • Annie

    Just want to say that I always enjoy Gordo’s posts and that today the replies here today are also a pleasure.

    I kinda think that being alone in the house, Gordon, adds to one’s morbid fascinations with creepy crawliing/slithering/swimming/rushing things that, yes, of course, we all have Compassion for, just crawl, slither, swim, rush faster!

    Lovely, lovely pattern on this sweater!

    • Gordon

      Hi Annie, probably the stupidest thing I did last time I was alone in the house in winter, dark evenings, wind rattling the windows, was to start re-reading Stephen King’s “Salem’s Lot”, a book that expertly creates an unsettling atmosphere of creeping menace. I got about a third of the way through before common sense kicked in and I hastily abandoned it in favour of the Wind in the Willows.

      Wait—what was that sound? No, just the wind. But—there it is again—is it? And that shadow by the door—is that my dressing gown? Or something uncoiling noiselessly from the ceiling, moonlight glinting on dripping fangs, arms outstretched…

      No, my mistake—it’s a pair of natty Minions pyjamas. The crime being committed here tonight, ladies and gentlemen, is against fashion…

  • Lois

    That spider was just coming to take gansey lessons. You know that Arachne is the “patron saint”, so to speak, of weavers, spinners and knitters. And I remember reading somewhere that the tensile strength of spider silk is stronger than that of steel.

    Now just think what a gansey you could knit out of that! Spider Kevlar, no less!

  • Gordon

    Hi Lois & Tamar, these are fair points, and I would never disrespect Arachne. Spider webs are even cooler than ganseys, and this is me talking! (Mind you, the thought of walking round with a jumper covered in the carcasses of snared bugs, moths and flies isn’t is appealing as you might think…)

    The thought of using spun spider silk is very tempting, though it does rather remind me of Zapp Brannigan defeating the Spiderians in Futurama (“Crazy bugs actually wove this tapestry of my heroic conquest while I was still killing them”).

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