Sunday, August 21, 2005

Sunday's Web Of Waffle

When I was sitting in the garden yesterday a hedgehog ambled out of the shrubbery and stood on the patio staring at me. I had my reading glasses on and it was so large that at first I thought it was a small cat. It was the Vanessa Feltz of the hedgehog world.
I told it the old joke about the difference between a hedgehog and a Range Rover being that, in the case of a hedgehog, the pricks are on the outside.
It didn't find this funny and went back into the shrubbery. If you were a hedgehog you'd probably have done the same.
Or maybe it saw the clothes pegs on the table and thought it had wandered into a gypsy camp and might end up on the supper menu.

The last time I made a joke about gypsies on someone else's blog I got told off. But was that a racist joke? After all, there was a time when gypsies made clothes pegs to sell. Whether they really ate baked hedgehogs I've no idea. I do know, from a TV programme I saw, that their culture can be deeply homophobic but there's no reciprocal Romanophobia (?) on my part.
And if you own a Range Rover, let me assure you that some of my best friends drive Range Rovers. But there are far too many of them in this country. Range Rovers, that is.

Well, I've begun with a digression, rather like the student who hadn't quite mastered the art of plagiarism and began his essay "Secondly....."
Because what I really intended to write about was spiders.
One of my earliest posts was about Harry the Spider who lived on my kitchen window. Sadly, Harry has long since gone to live in the cobwebs celestial.
But there are still far too many spiders in my life.

During the night they build cobwebs across the garden path. I walk into these when I take an early morning stroll down the garden. I also have a lavender bush next to the path which brushes against me. This means that I go to the shops in the morning festooned with cobwebs and reeking of lavender, like a cross-dressing Miss Haversham. No wonder I get funny looks in the newsagent.

I would hate to be reincarnated as a spider. They are neither hunters nor gatherers in the conventional sense. They build a trap and then spend days, weeks, months just hanging around waiting for some food to fly into it.
It's an even more boring life than that of the security guard in our village supermarket whose task is to prevent a crime spree by the largely geriatric clientele. But at least he can pass the time by playing games on his mobile phone.

I often find dead spiders in the house and wonder whether they've died from boredom or starvation. It's difficult to tell if it's the latter because their appearance is skeletal to start with.
It may be that the determination with which I exterminate any flies that enter my house is causing famine in the spider population. So today's ethical question is whether I should be interfering in the food chain and causing arachnocide by killing creatures because I dislike them rather than because they are a food source?

This raises the question of whether humans are part of the natural order of things at all and whether the ecology of the planet would tick over more smoothly if we weren't here.
Maybe we should have been designated Homo Interferens, not Homo Sapiens.
We poke our nose in. We stick our oar in. We can't let well alone. We leave no sleeping dog unturned.

If it's any consolation to the millions of other life forms with which we share this planet, we inflict misery on our own species in exactly the same way.
When two male swans bond for life and build a nest together, the other swans don't bat an eyelid and mind their own business.
And that's probably an elegant, swan-like segue into the planned subject of my next post.
From hedgehogs to gay rights is but a short stroll down this blogger's cobweb-festooned garden path, a mere canoe's length along my stream of consciousness.
But bring your own paddle.
I lost mine years ago.


At 8:22 PM, Blogger zaphod said...

You have a security gaurd in your village shop ?

At 10:06 PM, Blogger cello said...

You've solved it Willie. I've always thought there was something a little odd about the Miss Haversham in the classic David Lean 'Great Expectations'. But I now realise she's played by Quentin Crisp.

I like spiders. And I like cobwebs, when they are fresh and strung with dew. They are not quite so charming when dotted with trapped flies and midges.

You seem to exude a magnetic attraction for Beatrix Potter-esque wildlife, Willie. First Jeremy Fisher, the frog and now Mrs Tiggywinkle, the hedgehog. Next will come Squirrel Nutkin or Peter Rabbit. What's your secret?

You got a hedgehog today, and we got a lizard on the lawn - the first time I have ever seen one in the wild in the UK.

At 8:27 AM, Blogger Betty said...

I've seen lizards in the countryside a few times, but not heard of them turning up in anyone's garden before.

All I can muster up is a spider that thrived for a couple of months in our bathroom. Don't know how it managed to survive as there weren't any flies about, but I used to find it curled up around bottles of shampoo, cleaning products and the like. Maybe it developed a solvent abuse problem, or even a thing about sniffing bleach?

At 5:13 PM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

zaphod, it may be relevant that the village police station, which was near the shops, was closed and sold off and our village copper is now based 12 miles away.

cello, I've never seen a lizard, not even in the countryside. If only both of us had had our cameras with us at the time.

I think animals sometimes have a sixth sense that you are not a threat to them, in the same way that dogs recognise genuine dog lovers almost instantly. The alternative explanation is that I'm the reincarnation of St Francis, but I think that's unlikely.

betty, I remove them from the bathroom using the glass and cardboard method. But I'm not sure whether then throwing them out the bathroom window kills them anyway. Anyone know if they survive falls or do I need to give them a parachute?

At 8:58 PM, Blogger cello said...

I think you are definitely the reincarnation of someone special, but I haven't quite put my finger on who yet.

I could easily photograph our lizard as the 10 year old caught him and he (named Wally) is now resident in a very splendid habitat made from a giant glass salad bowl. Son has to catch him worms, ants and beetles, which he is relishing, but he is to be set free tomorrow. He is very small - about 4inches - and is a Common Wall Lizard (hence Wally) according to the book.

At 10:52 PM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

cello, the news of your lizard cheered me up after writing a long, emotional and depressing post.
I'd be happy to publish Wally here if you email me a pic. This blog is the Hello! of the animal kingdom.
When your son's age, I kept newts and all kinds of creatures in my bedroom but most of them died which I feel guilty about now. I also had on display a crow's feet which I cut off a dead crow with my penknife! God knows why. The only crow's feet I have now are on my face. Couldn't lend me some Oil Of Ulay could you?

At 8:46 AM, Blogger M D P said...

if those spiders are empty, they are not dead spiders, that's their skin. :P


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