mumsnetBack along, my family and I swapped a house for a three-acre field in Devon and a leaky caravan where we lived off-grid for two years. Sadly, we failed to get the planning permission we needed to stay. We are now back within four walls, with a proper loo and everything in a cottage in Dartmoor. So this is now a blog about living ethically amid a fabulous landscape with our home educated kids while we adjust to being 'normal' - for a while... and what we plan to do with our land next

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Conkering one's fears

Summer is over, the camping stuff is packed away, the evenings have a definite autumnal chill – and I am becoming vexed on the subject of spiders.

We spent last autumn in the caravan, which, thankfully, appeared to be a spider-free zone. In fact, I didn't see a single one. But this year, we are sleeping in the trailer and that is a different affair altogether. Large cobwebs stretch above the door and on the underside. Cobwebs that can only have been put in place by something large and muscular – and her mates.

This theory was borne out recently by the Sad Demise of the Pretty Spider. This was a little lime green arachnid who was pottering about among the struts that hold up our new wooden awning. It was a nice day and the sunlight that came through the roof highlighted his colour. I watched as he busily – and happily, I felt – made his way along a long strand of web that I took to be his own creation. 'Ahh,' I thought 'what a clever little chap, isn't nature wonderful!' Nature, at that point intervened in a not wonderful sort of way, when a large and violent spider pounced on my little friend and had him bitten and done up like a kipper before I could say 'Oh'.

My boys, meanwhile, have gleefully taken a book out of the library bearing the title The World's Most Horrible Deadliest Spiders Ever - or something to that effect. Its pages contain gruesome close-ups of eyes and jaws interspersed with descriptions of how prey is reduced to liquid before being sucked up. Just in case this doesn't freak you out enough, there are pictures of injuries arising from spider bites: limbs with large holes containing rotting flesh or swollen extremities oozing pus.

The common house spider:
hideous, ain't it?
My youngest loves this book and has had his nose in it ever since it left Crediton library. He is a generous lad who likes to share his pleasure, and thus it is presented regularly to me for my delectation. I am required to answer questions such as 'If a venomous spider bit the dog, how long would it take for her to turn all mushy so it could eat her'. I was forced to read the whole book to him in the car on the way to the station in the uncomfortable knowledge that I would be sleeping on the floor in someone's attic that night.

And, of course, the spider season is about to begin and our trailer feels somewhat exposed.

This silly fear of spiders is something I feel I should conquer – it seems daft to be living off grid in an outside sort of way and being squeamish about our eight-legged friends. Such weakness makes me feel unsuited to our lifestyle; I should be the sort of person who can pick up a spider with interest and conduct a short nature lesson. But then I am always thinking I am unsuited to our lifestyle – I am easily left feeling inadequate by any woman who can change a tyre, wield a bow saw, or any other practical application I am unequal to.

So, vexed I must remain although I shall take steps to help myself – spreading conkers and spraying citronella about - and above all, getting rid of that horrible book.

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