When I was little, I always hated creepy crawlies. I think a few far flung holidays in my teens and 20s, where the bugs were about the size of my own hands, mostly drummed it out of me – although I do still get a bit funny about very large spiders, daddy long legs and anything that buzzes near my face.
Anyway, I have always tried to be careful not to pass on my irrational fears to Ava: to look but not touch and to not be afraid. As she grows up she's going to have enough things to be terrified of (The Tweenies, the future equivalent of Justin Bieber, Simon Cowell's dress sense/teeth another decade from now) without being freaked out by tiny creatures that creep and crawl and buzz and hop.
One morning we were faffing about in the bedroom (or rather, I was clearing up all the clothes, shoes, duvets and pillows that had made their way back on to the floor since I had picked them up the day before, as the babies slowly replaced them behind my back). And while we were all merrily working away, Ava found a spider.
It wasn't a money spider, but it was quite small – about the size of my thumbnail – and Ava was eyeing it suspiciously. She was very curious but a little nervous. So I bent down to look at it with her and encouraged it to crawl on to my hand, to show her that we have nothing to fear from little spiders. She watched for a while and then asked if she could hold it.
Perhaps it was terrified, or perhaps it was hypnotised by our beautiful rendition of Incy Wincy Spider, but it stayed perfectly still on her hand for about 30 seconds. Then, suddenly, it decided to make a break for it and ran across Ava's palm and on to the floor, at top speed.
A spider in the hand was one thing – but a spider on the loose in her house, free to scamper about all over her stuff unhindered, was quite another.
"Oh no! Get it mummy!"
It hadn't gone far, so I scooped it up again from it's (not very well thought out) hiding place next to the skirting board and explained/lied to Ava that the spider would probably be much happier outside anyway. As it was quite small, Ava agreed that it should probably go home and find its mummy.
So I opened the top window and dropped the little thing out. We watched it fall lightly towards the windowsill, but it stopped just short of the masonry... into an all but invisible web.
Before I'd had time to gasp, the most enormous bloody spider I have ever seen darted out from a crevice in the wall and leapt upon Incy Wincy with all the menace of a highly seasoned killer. Wide-eyed Ava watched as the monster dragged its prey backwards towards its crevice of doom. Rather than going back in its hole, though, it proceeded to roll the little spider up into a ball and eat it (in a very showy way I thought) about six inches from a somewhat horrified Ava's face, nothing but a sheet of glass between them.
"What that big spider DOING mummy?!"
I panicked. "Er. That must be it's mummy darling! She's giving the little spider a big cuddle. Come on let's...."
"No mummy, I think she is eating it..."
Oh god. The fact that certain things eat other things is something little people learn somewhat organically. You know, chicken in a farmyard, chicken on a plate. I'm not sure if the connection has completely been made but there is a sort of understanding and acceptance about it. And then there are the conversations we have had about what frogs eat and what ladybirds eat – the fact that both eat flies has been swallowed easily enough, because Ava thinks flies are very naughty.
Nevertheless, she'd never witnessed the natural order of things quite so graphically and as the gargantuan arachnid was finishing its meal, no doubt with a satisfied spidery burp, I was still trying to think of ways to get Ava away from the window in case a flippin' butterfly accidentally flew into the web.
"Ava, shall we go downstairs? We could do your Peppa jigsaw? Ava? Ava, shall we go and have some lunch?"
At that, she swung round, looking extremely worried.
"We don't eat spiders, do we mummy?!"
"No darling. We eat sandwiches with cheese in them."
"Okay!" she said brightly. "Let's have lunch, YAAAAAY!" and she set off at her usual terrifyingly high speed towards the stairs.
So after all that, it seemed what worried Ava most was not the fate of Incy Wincy, the little spider she had sort of befriended and then witnessed crunched, chomped and guzzled, but the likelihood that I might ever serve up something similar.
I guess we'll steer clear of currant buns and Garibaldis for a couple of weeks.