Budapest to the Black Sea

Budapest to the Black Sea

Monday, 24 March 2008

The Spiders in My Shed

A few weeks ago while going on about music downloads I mentioned my shed and I may have given the impression that it is a chilly and unwelcoming place. Not so, my shed is not a garden shed with a flymo, balls of green string and a smell of creosote, my shed is paradise on earth. In my shed is my desk, a drawing board, groundplans of most UK theatres, 50,000 (roughly) postcards, 120 Eisenbahn Journals (a German railway magazine that has glossy pics of Dresden shunting yards and the like), 200 Model Railway Journals (this is as hard core as railway modelling gets), a bronze bust of Marshal Pilsudski, several hundred 54mm scale model soldiers, 2 rather good 19th century watercolours of Napoleonic scenes, and a lot of other stuff.

I also share my shed with a variety of insect species that feel it’s a great place in which to pupate and spiders with extremely long legs called Pholcus phalangioides. The latter presumably eat the unfortunate insects as they emerge from their pupal state making the shed not quite such a great place in which to pupate. On the whole these Daddy Longlegs spiders, as they are commonly known, lurk in the corners making untidy webs which they vibrate at frenzied speed if disturbed, but in the evenings they come out for a stroll. There is one that regularly ambles across the keyboard of my computer with all the casual elegance of an Edwardian toff on the river bank at Henley and as he, or more likely she, passes slowly from ‘Caps Lock’ to ‘Pg Up’ I study her closely, she completely unflustered by my close attention with a magnifying glass. Sometimes the spider will stop at ‘Y’ and turn left ascending the sheer cliff face of my laptop’s screen to disappear without pause over the back. My fascination with these lodgers prompted me to reread the chapter about spiders and their webs in Richard Dawkin’s “Climbing Mount Improbable”. This chapter answers all those questions about spiders and their webs that have been troubling you over the years. For instance, why don’t spiders get stuck in their own webs. Apparently they have the ability to exude different types of silk and they make the radial spokes of the web non-stick, the spiders using these spokes to rush out and disable their prey struggling in the sticky cross threads. The other question that has always bothered me is this, when you walk through a wood you come across a web stretched across the path 6 ft above ground level. Did the spider fix one end of the silk then drop down to the ground cross the path and climb the tree on the other side. No, what they do is make a kite which they float in the air paying out thread until it touches and sticks to the branch opposite. This book is also useful if you get stuck in a lift with religious enthusiast who believes that the world was created after tea on a Tuesday 4357 years ago and who challenges Darwinian theory by asking how the human eye could possibly have evolved. There is a chapter in Dawkin’s book describing exactly how the human eye might have evolved. My desk top may not be the Serengeti but these extraordinary, pale green semi transparent, hunters that live only 2 feet away behind the router box and the envelopes are a lot more interesting than all those dreary elephants, giraffes and rhinos that tramp across our TV screens nightly.

Apart from communing with nature the other great pleasure of shed life is listening to football on ‘BBC 5 Live’ on Saturday afternoons. I often have to invent a pressing professional crisis that demands that I retire to the shed to produce a rush groundplan/budget/schedule to enable me to do this. If you have never shared this pleasure the following will mean nothing to you.

5 Live at the Proms

Announcer: Lets go back to Alan Green and summariser Annex Footballer at the Albert Hall where the second half of tonight’s Prom is just under way.

Alan Green: Did you hear that! The flautist is obviously, and I mean obviously, 2 bars behind the rest of the orchestra and Herr Stickschift our so called conductor has done nothing, absolutely nothing about it. What do you make of that Annex?

Annex Footballer: (with mouth full) Sorry Alan I wasn’t listening. But I tell you something, these pies are excellent. Not as good as the pies at the Wigmore Hall but well up there.

Alan Green: I don’t know! These foreign conductors get paid a fortune and the flautist is getting away with murder! Anyway let’s go over to Cardiff where Mike Ingham has news from Welsh National Opera.

Mike Ingham: Yes Alan we’ve just heard that Peruvian tenor Enrico Singalotto will not be on tonight. Dressing room sources say that he is suffering from ‘an annoying little tickle at the back of the throat’. So at tonight’s performance of Tosca Cavaradossi will be sung by Owen Smallwelshperson, the young utility tenor recently signed from Swansea. Back to you Alan.

Alan Green: Thanks Mike. “An annoying little tickle at the back of the throat” what are today’s young singers like?

Annex Footballer: Couldn’t agree more Alan. In the old days John Vickers with “an annoying little tickle at the back of the throat” would have sung a full Ring Cycle without stopping for a glass of water and then have bitten the head off a whippet for an encore.

Alan Green: Quite right too. OK news from Stuart Hall at the Halle.

Stuart Hall: Ooharghroyalgargleloofahdropbelarusbabypowdermargeandpop-pop-music I know a bank where the wild thyme grows….

Alan Green: OK. Back here at the Albert Hall Maestro Stickschift has finally got the principal flautist under control and we are into the second movement of the concerto. What do you make of it so far Annex?

Annex Footballer: Well it’s a concerto of three movements..

Alan Green: Yes but clich├ęs apart don’t you thick Herr Stickschifts performance has been lamentable?

Annex Footballer: No Alan. Apart from that little contretemps with the flautist I think his tempi have been both sensitive and intriguing. His colouring and lightness of touch have….

Alan Green: And don’t forget Classical 606. You can call me with your comments on tonight’s fixtures. We’d especially like to hear from anyone who was at the Bournemouth Symphony’s concert at the Les Dennis Memorial Hall in Droitwich where their new music director…...

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