I have amalgamated two true stories her; I have shared them before but separately. My featured image is of a spider who came visiting my writing room, I confess I had to ask my 6’6½” husband to put it outside.
The big rescue
I read an amusing blog about arachnophobia – not that it is amusing to people who are afraid of spiders, it is a horrible phobia, and can be really inconvenient and disruptive to ordinary life. The blog I read was about someone who had to rush round to remove a spider from a friend’s student digs (it was in the USA so I guess they aren’t called ‘digs’!) It reminded me of a true story, something which happened to me, many, many years ago when I too was a student.
I used to live at the top of a very old Victorian house in Manchester, in what was amusingly called a ‘flat’. In fact it was a bedsit – two beds, a table, two chairs, a cupboard and a Baby Belling – do they still make them? The Baby Belling was described as a table top mini-oven with two hot plates/electric rings – in fact I’m not even sure ours had an oven, it may just have had two rings and a small grill.
It was the middle of a winter’s night, my room-mate and I were shivering beneath our paltry blankets as the condensation froze on the inside of our attic windows, when there was a knock on our door. A voice quietly called our names – it was our friend, who I will call Zena. In the house where we lived there were a number of rented rooms and shared bathrooms and lavatories over three floors, plus the attic where we lived perishingly. The light switch in the staircases and landings was on a timer so after about twenty or thirty seconds it went out.
I opened the door for Zena who stumbled in shaking in the dark; I she trembled with cold but, but no, it was fear. She lived a couple of miles from us in another shared house. She was very frightened and come to ask for our help. The problem was a spider in the bath; the bath was in a bathroom separate from her room (no en-suite in those days) and on a different floor from her room.
Now Zena had other phobias, as spiders. She had an irrational but dreadful fear of water… not running water or water coming out of a tap or a glass of water, but of water which was somehow enclosed or contained, as in a sunken tank, or between the lock gates of a canal, and in certain instances even the water in the canal itself. Most rivers weren’t a problem to her, the water was moving, but it was deep, dark, enclosed water which terrified her. Even reading about it or seeing pictures was very disturbing for her. She was, however, slightly fascinated by it; she would often write about it, and wrote poetry about it, but going for a walk beside a canal, going swimming in a pool, or even passing by certain fish ponds was impossible for her.
Back to the spider. She needed me to rescue her, or rescue the poor creature. My flatmate was less sympathetic, it was the middle of the night, so cold, and the street lights were out. I got dressed and went with Zena, down the several flights of stairs, and out into the freezing, dark Manchester night. We walked the couple of miles to the house where Zena lived and quietly entered and went up the stairs to the bathroom.
To be sure it was a pretty big black spider, but if I’d been her, in my own room on a different floor of the house, I could have lasted until morning. But such was Zena’s fear, that she couldn’t. She was amazingly brave in other ways, very risky in fact, but she had certain fears which she couldn’t control and they would overwhelm her.
I got rid of the spider, picking it up with a flannel (no soft toilet tissue in those days) and throwing it out of the window. Zena insisted I threw the flannel out into the night after it. Then she walked me back to my flat, through the deserted Manchester streets, the street lights flickering on again.