An unusual classification system

What a frightful looking beast –
Half an inch across at least…

Firstly, I apologise – things seem to be a bit spidery recently and I know not everybody likes them but they are rather a feature of this house so it is difficult to avoid them completely. Secondly, no pictures because the camera has gone away with the Man in the Shed until tomorrow (Hooray! Tomato pasta for tea, pass the rice pudding!) but perhaps that is better for the subject matter anyway…

I think the spiders can tell when there isn’t a caveman around to sort them out (see Cave Baby by J. Donaldson and E. Gravett – it’s a mouse but same principle applies) and double their troops just to make a point. I came downstairs this morning to find an enormous Fred sitting in the dining room doorway and had to evict him myself. I can catch them but I always worry I am going to squish their legs with the glass and then I worry they are going to escape just at the moment you have to lift the glass slightly to get it onto the piece of card and then when you look at them through the glass they look three times as big and then you have to carry them to the garden and the back door suddenly seems miles and miles away and then you have to do the bit where you shake the glass out and I worry the Fred is going still be in the glass when I look at it (or worse still – jump sideways and land on me) and then I run very fast back into the house and slam the door and turn round to double check that the Fred didn’t run faster than I did and beat me back inside.

There is a classification system for spiders that has been developing for around twenty five years so far, it isn’t complete yet but I thought I would tell you about it and try to increase its usage because then I won’t be the only one talking nonsense and I might get some help to fill in the missing categories… The system works by giving a name to each class of spider, they are proper names but are used in sentences as ordinary nouns e.g. ‘I don’t like the look of that Boris up there.’ or ‘I saw a Reggie hiding in that corner.’ which means I’m not really sure whether they should qualify for capital letters or not.

So in vague order of size, with descriptions and etymologies we have

Teeny tiny spiders smaller than 1/8″ – Unnamed as yet because really they are no bother and you could mistake them for an ant. How about ‘Mitch’? That sounds about right.

Emma – Larger than a Mitch but no bigger than 1/2″ absolute maximum – Earliest named class (circa. 1988 but needs verification) ordinary unscary spider so called because when I was little there was one on the wall low down near my bed and I got in a big panic and my mum tried to make it ok by saying she wasn’t scary and her name was Emma (it didn’t really work very well but I appreciate the sentiment) which probably means you can blame my mother for this particular lot of nonsense I am subjecting you to.

Reggie – Sub class – A particularly small and spindly Boris (See Boris) less than 1/2″ across with extremely fine legs that are very difficult to see. Named by a member of our Sunday school class (in approximately 2006 or thereabouts) who is now grown up and whose wife may well be reading this.

Boris – Daddy-long-legs/cellar spider – I don’t know when these were named but pre 1998 – when I was at secondary school my friend’s mum said she called them Borises because they are annoying and Boris Becker is annoying (could equally be applied to Boris Johnson).

Harvestmen – Unnamed – Similar to but definitely a separate class from Borises – Borises have a head and a body and harvestmen only have one lump with all the bits and pieces in (and legs of course).

Garden spiders – Unnamed – The ones with the pretty patterns on the back and the bottoms that are too big for their heads. The class is unnamed but the three specific ones  who build webs parallel to the path behind the greenhouse sometimes get called Enid, Ethel and Edith or similar. When they build their webs perpendicular to the path they just get sworn at. The ones inside the greenhouse don’t have a name yet.

Fred – Large house spider – the sort that is normally at least 1″ and you can hear their footsteps when they scuttle around the floor doing their nightly patrol circuit round the house. Named in 2003 – there were several who lived in the outside cupboard in Bristol and they have a very good sense of direction/homing instinct, I speak from experience… Also good at jumping, or at least deliberately falling (again from experience).

Dennis – One particular Fred who previously used to jump out at me from the storage box in the garden (Subconsciously Dennis the Menace?) but who hasn’t been seen since I posted his photo on this blog, perhaps the fame and the paparazzi got too much for him.

The rusty, metal spider who lives under the hydrangea in the front garden – Unnamed. He should have a name he’s been there several years now, he is about 10″ across and I bought him in the garden centre because he was reduced – people had bought all the other random metal animals but clearly nobody fancied the spiders and there was still a crate of them left looking sorry for themselves and being marked down so I liberated one of them.

That’s all the categories I can think of at the moment but I’m sure there are some beasties who don’t fit into one of these. By the way, don’t look at the ceiling just above you…

Eleven things I learnt this week

Okay, they may not all have been this week but ‘Eleven things I learnt over the last three and a half weeks’ doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

1. I am the queen of procrastination. I have spent two weeks telling myself to write a new post before deciding I really must do it today and then two hours shortening curtains, twenty minutes playing the clarinet badly (very sorry people who live next door I am still rubbish at the high notes, the low notes and all the ones in between) and then some minutes doing bookkeeping and updating WordPress rather than sitting down to write this post, hopefully this will give you an idea what we have been up to the last few weeks.

2. Cucumbers are ridiculously easy to grow. This is the first year I have tried cucumbers and I plonked three plants in a grow bag and haven’t touched them since and we’ve had more cucumbers than we can eat.

3. You can have too many plums. I made four pounds of plum jam each day for six days running. And then some more. And then we bought a small chest freezer to put the rest of them in. And then made something like thirty-six pounds of damson jam in a day and a half because the Man in the Shed was a bit more thorough at collecting damsons from next door (when I sent him round with a bag of plums to swap with them) than I was expecting and the damsons were all going a bit splatty. Which reminds me, I must give them some jam…

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4. It is possible for School uniform to reappear out of the black hole that it frequently vanishes into. Three weeks before the end of the summer term, on sports day, Small lost his jumper, the school claimed not to have seen it, to have looked everywhere for it and we put it down as dropped somewhere between school and the field that sports day was held in. Yesterday it reappeared in his bag without a word or a clue as to where it had been. Maybe there is still hope for the dinner money purse that never came back on the last day of term or the coat that evaporated yesterday.

5. Boxes are always more fun than the things that came in them.

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6. Walking up and down hills makes me hungry. At the moment I have to go up a hill, down a hill and up another hill to school at half past eight and then back down the hill, up a hill and down the other hill to go back home, back up to school at half past twelve for the start of the nursery class and back home again and then back up the hill for the end of school at three o’clock and home again. Next Monday the after school clubs start and I have to pick up one of them at three fifteen and the other at four. I have eaten an inordinate quantity of biscuits and am still hungry. Might have to start eating frozen plums instead.

7. Not talking to anyone in the playground for six weeks has made my never particularly competent ability to make small talk become completely non-existent. People have been asking me if I had a nice summer and my vocal chords seize up along with my mind and I mutter something incomprehensible at them and hope they will leave me alone until I remember what it is you are supposed to say.

8. Vests are loads quicker than jumpers. They are twice as quick and use half the wool. This one is Angostura by Ysolda and I like it so much I might have to make some more. (I have already had an order for a Christmas present). Sorry, haven’t got a proper mug shot of it, (does it count as a mug shot if it is for showing off your jumper instead of your mug?) but here are some of the gorgeous cables.

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9. Beech trees on tarmac make a fantastic noise. There is one on the way to school about four storeys high (four modern pokey storeys – it is a bit taller than the three storey flats it is next to) and when there is a breeze you can stand underneath it and be showered continuously with beech nuts which make a sort of pitter-patter noise, tapping a bit like rain but lighter and more hollow sounding. I keep slowing down under the tree just to listen to it.

10. Kay don’t read this one. British garden spiders can get really big. You know the ones with the big bottoms and thin legs with the speckly brown and white pattern on their bottoms? I normally feel reasonably kindly towards those ones, they live in the greenhouse and so far this year have been remarkably well behaved about not building webs across the path but I went in there the other day and there was one with a bottom the size of a small grape and I totally freaked out and got a stick to chase it out and then threw the stick out of the window when she started crawling along it towards my hand, I hope she found somewhere nice and dark to hide where I won’t find her again!

11. Beetroot is not always pink.

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In which the house plants are confused

Generally I am death to pot plants, I either totally ignore them for months on end or drown them because I feel so guilty about having neglected them previously. I have one not-quite-an-orchid-thing in the bathroom (which has been quite happy there for the last few years and I haven’t managed to kill yet because I at least remember to water it on the odd occasion that I clean the bathroom) and one enormous Christmas cactus that after years in my parents’ kitchen got too big (not too big for the whole kitchen, just too big for the space it was in) and they gave to me so long ago that I can’t remember when. I neglect that as well but it is a camel and keeps going on its reserves. Last year it went really wrinkly and old and miserable looking because I forgot to water it for months and months and months so I gave it a shower every day for a week and it looks quite happy again now. But it is a little bit confused – it thinks it is Christmas this week rather than Easter.

IMG_0438Can old man cactuses have dementia? I think it needs a name, it has been around that long but I haven’t quite worked out what it is yet.

The other thing I was going to tell you about is the spiders. I haven’t got any pictures because Dennis didn’t go down too well last time with someone who shall remain nameless (Kay) but I am going to tell you about them so stop reading if you like.

We have an annual infestation of small yellow spiders in the greenhouse, they hatch out and most years I manage to see them before they disperse (unless they find a really good hiding place). There are hundreds of them, they are smaller than one millimetre, bright yellow with a brown triangle on their bum and given the number of garden spiders who inhabit the tomato plants later in the year I’m guessing that’s what they turn into. I’m not too keen on spiders normally but I like these ones, they are fantastic – the first year they were all suspended in a brown clump a couple of inches across and you couldn’t see the cobweb because it was so fine and I couldn’t work out what it was that was floating there until I accidentally brushed the web and they all exploded outwards into a big cloud of wriggly, baby spiders, after a few minutes they settled back down and went back to a clump in the middle. It was amazing though and it always makes me smile to see them (maybe because of reading Charlotte’s Web too many times).

This year they were hiding under a bag of compost, I’m glad I got to see them because I think I missed it last time. I might not be so pleased once I need to water the tomatoes without getting a face full of cobweb – I’ve told them they are welcome to live in the plants as long as they don’t make webs across the path but they always forget. I keep a stick by the door now and have an imaginary fencing match every time I walk in there, they normally remember again by the time the tomatoes are ripe and have rearranged themselves parallel to the path. Somebody remind me how much I like the baby ones when I am hopping up and down and cursing with a face full of spider web in August, will you?

Oh, and I’ve done about three fifths of the ends so far and I don’t think I am insane yet. Judge for yourself. Happy Christmas!

In which there is a spider and a fire engine (you have been warned)

I won’t show you the spider until the bottom so that you don’t have to read that bit  if you don’t want to but here is a fire engine because I don’t know anyone with a phobia of fire engines.

The Man in the Shed wanted me to show you what he has been doing this morning; Small wanted to pinch one of his friend’s toys and then complained that it was broken so the Man in the Shed said they would borrow it and fix it at the same time. The ladder was missing so they have made new one out of teas stirrers and match sticks. I am sure that he must secretly be related to the mice who live in the Marvellous Mechanical Mouse Organ…

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Tiny and I have been planting things in the greenhouse and it is definitely looking more green this week. I am fairly amazed that I have managed to keep a tray of sweet peas alive over the winter – my Grandad gave them to me in a heap in an ice cream tub at the beginning of December and being a fair weather gardener (I only go out there in the cold if the compost pot in the kitchen is threatening to explode and coat the entire room with rotting veg peelings) I have more or less ignored and neglected them since and miraculously they look nice and green and bushy now.

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The spider is coming, stop reading now if you don’t want to see. The planting of things is what made me want to tell you about Dennis. He lives in the box where I keep the spare flower pots and I know he lives there but I always forget and his sole aim in life appears to be to give me a fright by scuttling around suddenly and looking enormous every time I open the box. I like spiders at a distance so he has agreed not to come and visit me in the house as long as I let him have use of the box. I am scared of spiders when I see them unexpectedly or when they are taller than me (i.e. on the ceiling) but I can cope if I know they are there and, like Howl, I don’t like anyone disturbing the resident cobwebs.

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Isn’t he a beauty? I’m not sure why he is called Dennis (normally the house spiders are all called Fred, daddy long legs are Boris and for some reason the garden spiders don’t have a name but there is a colony who live in the greenhouse and are very pretty) but he looks like a Dennis to me.

I have been getting on with jumper number three (which is really a cardigan) so I’ll tell you about that next time maybe but I am also waiting for some 100% cotton yarn to arrive so I can make some boobs. There is a group called Knitted Knockers who make prosthetic breasts for mastectomy patients (they say the silicon ones are really heavy and uncomfortable) and I thought I might as well put some knitting to good use and make a few for them, (my Grandma is going to test drive the first one for me) I’ll let you how I get on…

But in the mean time here is a cat being silly (Sorry Pip!). But at least it means that the jumper must be almost dry because cats don’t like having soggy bottoms:

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