IF you find yourself at my house drinking from the coffee mug with a faded photo of my wife screaming on a rollercoaster, you know you’re not welcome.
That’s what my wife refers to as The Spider Cup. It’s used for catching the spiders that terrorise our home.
I used to catch them in the boys’ plastic drinking cups. I’d set the spider free only to see my wife throw the offending plastic cup in the bin.
“Germs,” she’d say.
While I’m no expert in these matters, I cannot recall any warnings about the dangers of spider-borne disease. Tarantula flu anyone?
Flies, I accept, are disgusting. You saw what Jeff Goldblum did to that guy’s arm in The Fly, didn’t you?
I glean most of my wildlife knowledge from movies. It’s why I hate swimming in the sea (Jaws), paddling in rivers (Piranha) and flying on holiday (Snakes on a Plane).
My wife’s fear of spider diseases was costing us a fortune in plastic cups.
We compromised. To save on the kids’ cups, the mug with the faded photo of my wife screaming for her life on the Sonic Spinball at Alton Towers is used for spider-catching purposes.
The cup is easily identifiable, and those who choose to drink from it, well, they can take the risk.
It’s the cup I invariably see being presented to the builders, and, on occasions, unwelcome guests.
When they are given The Spider Cup, the wife and I exchange knowing looks.
After sipping from The Spider Cup, I always detect a slight tinge of disappointment in my wife’s face when the cup-user fails to gag and fall to the floor, frothing at the mouth, their hands scrabbling at their throats.
I mention this only because the spider season has started up again at Ord Towers, which has, once again, brought my wife’s wildlife phobia to the fore.
She hates most living things.
But what interests me most is her unshakeable belief in her own half-baked knowledge of animal biology and behaviour.
The spider-borne diseases are a typical example.
If you walk round our house, you’ll also find conkers secreted in the corners of most rooms.
After reading somewhere that spiders were repelled by conkers, she ordered our two boys to collect horse chestnuts and block all potential spider entrances.
There is, of course, absolutely zero evidence that conkers contain any spider-repelling qualities, but she persists with theory.
So when a monster spider appeared on the kitchen wall this week, I sarcastically remarked that we need more conkers. She agreed with a serious nod of the head.
“In the meantime,” she bellowed, “get The Spider Cup.”
After spotting the monster (it was a full four inches in diameter) I paraphrased Roy Scheider with the line “We’re gonna need a bigger cup.”
She wasn’t having any of it. It had to be The Spider Cup.
I managed to cover it, slip a piece of paper over the top of the cup and proceeded to take it to the back door.
“You can throw it over the neighbour’s fence,” she said.
No, I’ll just drop it outside the back door.
“You can’t do that,” she wailed, “it’ll find a way back in.”
But I can’t be seen climbing the neighbour’s fence at 10 o’clock at night shaking a spider from a cup into their back garden. What do I say if they see me? “Hi, I think this is yours.”
“You’ll have to take it out of the front of the house then,” she said. “And set it free at the bottom of the street. If you don’t, it’ll just find its way back. They always return to their webs.”
Always return to their webs? What is it, a homing spider?
She was adamant. Spiders always return home. And so I had to release the spider 30 yards up the road.
There was an uneasy silence that evening. But she eventually thawed and later we enjoyed a cup of cocoa in front of the telly.
It was only when I’d drained the last drops that I realised it had been served up in The Spider Cup.