In which a small creature creates a medium amount of havoc…

I cannot remember a time of my life when I have not been afraid of spiders. Some of it is learned behaviour (I do after all have a mother who moves the furniture to hoover underneath on a regular basis so nothing with 8 legs can lurk underneath and creep out to surprise her at night), and some of it is an entirely rational (as far as I’m concerned) hang-over fear from humanity’s early days when spiders were as big as houses and angrier than a thwarted toddler.

You have seen the most recent King Kong film, haven’t you? See? Big Spiders. BIG. HUUUUUUGGGGEEEE. I rest my case.

Anyway, mostly these days, I manage to sit on my fears as now I’m the only adult in the house, ergo, the only person to remove said creatures. I ignore the ones in corners, chat to the spindly ones (in the hope that by being friendly, they won’t eat my face whilst I’m asleep) and have gone so far as to usher out into the garden the bigger-than-I-wish-to-cohabit-with ones, rather than reaching for the hoover and holding the nozzle with my very fingertips.

But what I really really draw the line at is finding them crawling into my cleavage. Specifically, crawling into my cleavage when I’m in a rather important meeting with Historic England and an archaeologist. So lo, when it came to pass that last Friday, I was nodding my head sagely and saying “hmm, yes, raft foundations…gable end…etc”, I felt something unusual in that direction.

Looking down, I see a spider about the size of my thumbnail (which I consider to be a considerable size in an arachnid) heading southwards. With great presence of mind, I turn to look in the direction of a particularly fine example of Tudor timber-framing, and swiftly reach in to pluck the fearless creature from my regions, flinging it away, hopefully far away.

However. I am not entirely sure I’ve got the little blighter. I cannot rummage around in there to check. I couldn’t be sure I’d managed to grab it. In fact, I’m not entirely if I didn’t just squash it against myself and now have spider goo on me.

But, professional as I am, I control the rising hysterics and continue with the meeting. All the while my internal monologue sounds like this…

“Yes, yes, I can see the need for a full building condition report…there’s a spider in my dress…a heritage statement is indeed a good thing…there’s a spider in my dress…yes, of course we can go and investigate the attics…there’s a SPIDER in my dress…oh, the cellars too, why not…there’s a SPIDERĀ in my DRESS…that’s been a really useful discussion…FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS SACRED, THERE IS A FUCKING SPIDER IN MY DRESS…”

Finally the people left, I indulged in a mini-meltdown in the privacy of my own office and, when I got home, utterly failed to find the creature, which, I’ve no doubt, is now regaling its many-legged friends with tales of the giant fingers ruthlessly plucking it from its new resting spot and flinging it callously to the ground. I hope they buy it many pints of fly beer, or whatever they drink.

So far, my friends have singularly failed to buy me a restorative pint…

PS I tried to find an image of said King Kong spider but the images that came up on a Google search frankly gave me the wiggins, so you’ll have to imagine it. Plus, I hate it when people drop a spider image into a blog or twitter post, so I couldn’t do it. Have a Monty Python one instead. You’re welcome.

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Right Here, Right Now

I have reclaimed my house after an Easter visit from the Teen. They are, obviously, a delight to have around, the apple of my eye, the spring in my step and the beat of my maternal heart, and I relish every moment of their being home, especially as the gaps between them being home grow wider as they grow older.

However, as I stretch out on my sofa and my feet do not come into contact with ring binders and uncapped pens, I cast my eye over the room that does not contain pairs of giant trainers strewn about the floor in ideal tripping locations, knowing that the dishes are done, the food in the fridge will be there in the morning and the washing pile is at a normal height, not epic mountain proportions. This is also, in its own quiet way, satisfactory.

Work continues with its busyness and my social life goes through phases of quiet weeks and busy weeks. This is one of the latter, full of exhibition launches, talks on Tudor demon minds, haircuts, cinema, trip to Oxford and a German guest coming to stay at the weekend.

I also managed to fit in a trip up a hill from my Teen’s childhood, to the bluebell woods of old. I strode up the yellow brick road (in reality, a mix of gravel and flint but lets not put reality in the way of a story, shall we?) on a day when the wind either boosted me up the path or pushed me back down like a petulant child demanding that I LOOK AT IT! Except you can’t look at the wind, you can only see its effects. So I did. I paused by a handy gate to lean and watch the crops and grasses ripple, the trees shiver and bend, and the crows launch themselves, laughing, into the chaotic, cloud-chaser sky.

I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve visited this wood, parking at the village, slipping through the churchyard, along the path by the lake, up beyond the farm with its occasional visiting Silver Stream trailer, and carry on on on to the almost-top of the yellow brick road. Once I saw a red kite hovering casually above me. Once me and the Teen walked up here at night to watch the Perseid meteor shower. Back in the beginning, it was 4 of us: father, mother, child and dog: mismatched paces, calls and whistles, grumbles and laughs.

Then it became the three of us: mother, child and dog. The walk is quieter, more time is spent noticing things like fungi on tree trunks, fossils and flints, examining the latter to see if there are any with worked edges, but we have always found walking an ideal time for talking. Long, slow, serious conversations as they navigate the perils and pitfalls of being a human being in this complicated world.

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Then it became two: the dog and me. His fluffy pantaloons and matching tail marking the way ahead as he raced on to sniff out small mammals that might prove chasing and I walked more slowly to appreciate the scenery, occasionally coming out of my daydream to call him back.

This year, it was me setting my own pace and relishing in the freedom of it. The sense of space around me and lack of traffic noise. The wind, tweaking and harassing the branches of the trees, providing a background rush to the sound of birds singing. The sun shone, appearing bashfully from behind quickly scudding clouds, making the various shades of green glimmer on the hillside. There are two cyclists, clad in the kind of garish colour scheme normally only seen on wasps, pedalling and discussing their weight lifting sessions at the gym in loud voices: luckily they are the only people around and are soon gone, shooting up the path with a focus that seems almost rude on this lazy Sunday morning.

I carry on at my own pace, turn to the right, past the pine plantation where we used to gather pine cones for Christmas decorations and where deer could be seen moving silently between the trees, ghostly figures in shifting dust motes. Or at least we could and we did until an electric fence was set into the ground.

Walk under the giant silver birch trees that shiver and whisper their heads together, way above mine, their trunks a spectral, peeling silver. Across the stream via the two thick wooden planks that wobble just enough to give a minor thrill, the tiniest rush of “wooaa!” adrenaline and then across. Pause to watch the tree tops dance, listen to the birds sing notice of your arrival, breathe in the damp smell of mud, bluebells and a sharp top note of the last of the wild garlic.

The bluebells are still holding, still blue, still striking, still gathered and glorious. And being right there, at that moment, all on my own, with nothing but the natural surroundings, I am smiling with my whole self at the sheer bloody joy of being right there. IMG_0926

Hasn’t that been a

long while since I last posted. To be honest, I’m still in two minds as to whether this gets posted or not. Do I really need another online thing to consider, what with my social media, my work’s social media and website, and e-newsletters what I write for another company?

Let’s just tap away and see how we feel as I go on, shall we?

In many ways, life has not changed that much: I’m still incapable of wearing nail varnish for longer than 24 hours without picking it off. My book buying is still out of control. I still work within the weird world of museums. I’m still socially inept and prone to saying the Wrong Thing with gusto, commitment and volume.

In another, more important way, my life has changed hugely. The Teen set their sights on university last year and in September made their intrepid way to Preston to study sport science and nutrition. Now, whilst I am overjoyed to have a family member back in the Northern bosom of our ancestors, I’m not convinced that this sudden switch to all things sporty and nutrition-y aren’t signs that they are actually a changeling.

So now I find myself confronting life finally living on my own, with time on my hands that is all mine. Have to say, I quite like it. Weekends with friends? Sure! Weekends on my own. Absolutely! Sunday morning routines and songs that are Sunday songs only? Of course! Wednesday evening living room dances because it’s Wednesday? Too right!

This week, I went for a long window-shop with my sister and mum, met up with my closest friend for a day, went to a puppet show (for grown-ups, and shut up) with another, made bread, went to a talk on climate science and Hollywood (hint: they don’t always get the facts right, kids!), cooked risotto and vegetarian pasties, dog-sat, chatted to an ex-colleague-and-now-friend for 2 hours, worked. My slightly skewed weekend is dawning (I work Saturdays, so weekends are Sunday-Monday) with the promise of cooked breakfasts, walks in the countryside and impromptu visits.

So yes, I miss my Teen, but I know they’re happy and thriving, making their own way. When they take off for a year studying in Canada in August, their own way will be a long way from mine. This phase of my life as a parent hasn’t ended (my Mum has confidently – and a little wearily – assured me that is never ends), but a whole new phase has started up alongside it.

Exciting-terrifying. Excifying, if you will.

Actually, probably don’t .

 

 

 

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