I’ve always known that spiders are Scottish. It’s not something that I find easy to understand or to explain, it’s just the way things are and I know it to be true. I’ve never spoken to one, of course - your average spider doesn’t really strike me as much of a conversationalist. But even if I had, I’m not so stupid as to think that any spider would bother to give me the time of day. But still I know them to be Scottish, or if not Scottish born, then of direct Scottish lineage. Just look at the way they walk. Can’t you see it too?
My wife thinks I’m mad, of course.
“How can they all be Scottish? There are spiders all over the world!”
“There are people all over the world too.”
“Yes, but spiders can’t travel as easily as people, and even if they could, why would they all be Scottish?”
“Well, if all mankind is descended from a single female ancestor from the Rift Valley, then why shouldn’t all spiders be descended from a single, Scottish ancestor?”
At this, she just shook her head. If she can’t see the obvious truth with her own eyes, why would I think that logic might open her mind?
The weather is turning. The disappointing slosh of summer is subsiding glumly into the muted drabness of autumn, and as the seasons change, there has been a sudden influx of spiders into our house. Heaven knows how they find their way in, but suddenly I find them scuttling purposefully across the living room floor, clearly on a mission, some big enough that you can hear their footsteps on the floorboards. As I watch them go, I can almost hear them mumbling grimly to themselves, cursing the weather and their ill-fortune as they head to a warm, dark nook somewhere inside my house.
What they don’t realise, poor unsuspecting fools, is that the changing seasons also see a change in the hunting habits of our cat. During the dog days of summer, she will happily spend her evenings hunting moths and bringing them carefully back into the house through her cat-flap for a leisurely dismemberment. As winter approaches, moth season ends and spider season begins. Judging by her face, she doesn’t much like the taste, but they do seem to provide a boundless source of entertainment, especially if they are foolish enough to run under her nose. We used to pride ourselves, my wife and I, on running a spider-friendly establishment. Even the biggest, hairiest man-eater was welcome in our house or would at the very worst be carefully and respectfully ushered off the premises rather than unceremoniously washed down the sink. That changed with the cat, and the house is now largely arachnid free for 10 months of the year. Spider hunting season is brief, but warmly celebrated in these parts, at least by the cat.
Nature is cruel, of course…. But I do fancy that the occasional gnarled survivor, perhaps missing a leg or two, is able to stagger outside, cursing all the while, to pass the word on to other wanderers in the great spider migration south of the vicious Sassenach cat that dwells therein. Maybe they mark the house with some inscrutably Celtic spider symbol of warning?
Who is to say that they don’t?