When I was 9 or 10, we got our first television. This, of course, was a very big deal indeed. It was purchased to coincide with the start of commercial television. Oh, how excited I was at the thought of Muffin the Mule being in my very own sitting room. We actually started to sit in the sitting room in the evenings, instead of cosily round the kitchen table, listening to the wireless. This meant that the coal fire would be lit (it was autumn) , and my parents and I (I'm an only child) would sit on the sofa, in front of the fire, gazing at the flickering black and white screen. My grandparents, who lived with us, as was quite common in the fifties, stayed in the kitchen, and talked about old times.
Saturday night was my favourite night of the week. The prgrammes were geared more for children then. There was Robin Hood (riding through the glen), followed by the Buccaneers (roving across the ocean), followed by The Strange world of Planet X, which I wasn't allowed to watch alone, and sometimes wasn't allowed to watch at all as my mother considered it too scary for me. Anyway, the Saturday night in question I was sitting by myself in front of the television watching The Buccaneers, eating a pomegranate that my grandfather had brought home from his fruit shop, along with the bananas*, apples and pears, when I heard this tap-tap-tapping in the grate. I looked down, and there was the biggest, hairiest, spider I have ever seen in the flesh, so to speak.
It sauntered, eight-leggedly around the fireplace, while I sat, initially petrified with terror. And then I screamed, and then I screamed again. My mother, a woman prone to imagining the worst, came running in. I was standing on the sofa, I was pointing, I was totally hysterical. My mother, despite her fear of most things (especially wasps, which don't actually bother me much unless they're actually bothering me, if you see what I mean), was not bothered by spiders, but this one was a horse of a different colour. This was not a put-a-glass-over-it job. My mother looked at the spider and took off her slipper, and slapped the spider hard with the slipper, the spider turned around, saw my mother, slipper raised, and rather than running for its life, fought her. It was an unequal battle, the spider was no match for my mother and her slipper. In a scene reminiscent of the shower scene in Psycho, my mother beat the spider to death. It was so big, it neither squashed nor shrivelled, it just lay there dead. My mother picked it up with the coal shovel, and threw it on the fire. My goodness those were tough old days.
I've been terrified of them ever since. But I don't want them to die either.
*I forgot to mention that the spider appeared to have come home with the bananas!