Don’t look up

A hot December day. Kyabram, Australia.  A dark haired, eight-year-old girl dressed in a yellow swimming costume is in her garden, running towards the swimming pool.  From the house, her father yells loudly after her, “Remember …  don’t touch the sides”!!  She knows what this means.  The oval-shaped pool is a cheap design; half submerged in the ground, half above ground.  To enter it she has to climb a ladder and the sides of the pool are infested with spiders – mostly redbacks.  She performs a balancing act on the ladder to enter the water without making contact with the pool’s edge; exiting will be even more acrobatic and at no point during her swim will she go near the border.  The year is 1985.

…. 26 years later. Bendigo, Australia.  In the living room a commercial break interrupts the news.

ME:  Have you got a key I could use while I’m here?

MUM:  Sure!  The spare key’s in the usual spot in the garage. 

ME: Oh, good. 

I remain in my seat.  My mother’s tired and I should leap to get the key myself, but I know the garage and I can’t face it yet.  Only 24 hours ago we had arrived from the airport.  Pulling up to the garage my mother had stopped the car.

MUM:  “I’ll let you out here and then I’ll pull in”.

ME (smiling at our mutual understanding):  “Thanks, there’s no need for me to go in there unless I have to”.

MUM:  “It’s okay if you don’t look up.  They never drop down”.  (Our family mantra for avoiding spiders.  Apparently if you don’t see them, all is well, despite the fact that the ceiling is crawling with them). 

That night I’d slept sporadically, awake from jetlag.  I kept my eyes averted from the window.  The room’s spotless and prepared for my stay; fresh linen, polished mirrors, wardrobe space cleared.  I know that my mother would have used a broom to clear cobwebs from the window frame and all creepy crawlies would have been ruthlessly destroyed.  An unspoken ritual: she knows what must be done. 

My father, on the other hand, was never so competent when hunting arachnids.  We’d spot the creature – by spot I mean scream and run from the room.  We’d hear banging and a few obscenities yelled, and then he’d emerge announcing the spider was dead.  Inevitably it had escaped and would be seen hours later – dancing gleefully and laughing at us.  Our only way around my father’s lie was to demand to see the crumpled corpse; the unity of two sisters fight against the eight-legged is not to be underestimated. 

Two species of spider favour our house: redbacks and huntsmans – huntsmans my greater foe.  Harmless, but the size of a tarantula, a huntsman is spotted monthly, staring defiantly at us from a large blank wall, never even attempting to hide.

In the garage, ostracised by the household, both species (and quite a few more) angrily lurk.  It takes stoicism to enter this space and endure the hatred radiating down from countless eyes.  Currently, sitting in my mother’s living room, I can’t face it.  Of course in a week I’ll have my broom at the ready, the trained child soldier returning, deadened heart and nerves of steel.  Australian mercenaries are cultivated early; I’ve witnessed my then-four-year-old niece voluntarily kill with a shoe – that’s a close up, intimate weapon of choice and earned my full admiration. 

Eventually my mother rises, heading to retrieve the key located in a nook that’s certainly home to Aragog himself.  As she stands, I look at her and smile, ”Need a broom”?  “No, it’s okay, I just won’t look up”.   


Since writing this, my mother has informed me that redbacks are far more prevalent in her house than huntsmans – I think this was supposed to be reassuring.  Immediately following this conversation, I saw (and drowned) a daddy-long-legs in the bath (in Australia, daddy-long-legs are spiders not insects).  It’s going to be a long six months.


12 responses to “Don’t look up

  1. The Garage! It seems to be the breeding ground for those things. I’ve had a quick Google for the redback and I have to say it’s rather pretty. For a spider. It sounds like a hardcore arachnid, though and knowing it can be found under toilet seats does not endear me to it one bit. As for the Huntsman, I feel sick just looking at it. Stay in London, Simone. Although a big mother of a spider nearly killed me in the shower last year (and I wrote about it, of course), it’s much, much safer.

  2. In response to the comment you left on my blog – I remember reading your spider post. I fully sympathise! And in reciprocal linking,

    • I don’t think there’s an Australian alive (or at least a rural Australian) who doesn’t have a spider story. I have loads of them. Once my new boyfriend’s brother (who I’d never met) picked me up from the train station and a huntsman scurried across the dashboard. I was trying to act calm and cool (he was far too casual about the hairy beast in front of us) but I was only a few minutes away from opening the car door and jumping out. Thankfully the eight-legged monster stayed on the driver’s side so I was able to maintain a semi-decent first impression.

  3. The poor little huntsmans are 100% harmless. They even make for great entertaining pets. They do battle with each other, have millions of babies, and can grow back missing limbs! I loved them in my time down in Victoria. You should be far more concerned with the redbacks for sure. Those things scare the crap out of me. Especially when they live under toilet seats.

  4. And I’ve been concerned that you will choose to settle back in Australia and never return to the beautious Ealing – I need not worry. Phew!

    • I would never abandon you, my theatrical friend. Returning to Ealing, however, might mean enticing you back to Golds. We can’t have Stepped together for the last time, we just can’t. In fact I’m going to choreograph a routine specifically for us, The Westside Stepsisters (I’m not joking, I’m already running through possible songs).

      • Nicola Cressey

        Please pop in a Mika one – I do love to step to that. And also some opportunities for jazz hands and a little spring ball change. No, don’t worry Simone, I firmly believe we will step together again. Although you must know, my new gym is fab! I’m loving Body combat and the energy of the instructors. Poor old Bab’s just ain’t got it..

      • Incredibly, I’ve already done a Mika one (did you have a particular song of his in mind because god knows I can do more, I’m indefatigable when it comes to busting the moves!). I can’t believe you mentioned jazz hands and a spring ball change (I call it a step ball change – am I wrong? I love them whatever they’re called) as I was initially going to mention those very two things in my original reply to you. Great minds, Cressey, great minds. I bow down to your hand flourishes – they’re inspired.

  5. Mother-fing f that s#*t so very hard. Jesus. The places people will live nowadays eh? Amazing.

    PS. The Human Centipede was a joke of a movie. Dear god, no one in their right mind would put themselves in the presence of such a terrifyingly dangerous creature as that main character…. oh wait. Have a great sab!

  6. I have just looked at the Huntsman….get out, get out now while you still can!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s