Eunice Wilson, 61, lives in Cinderford, a town in Gloucestershire in the UK. Eunice is retired and studies theology in her spare time at a local college. She is also my mum.
Cinderford, where my parents live, is within spitting distance of The Dean Academy in Lydney, which was closed this week following an infestation of poisonous false widow spiders.
The spiders, which are roughly the size of a 50p coin when fully grown, have been multiplying rapidly in the UK. Some experts put their proliferation down to climate change.
I was concerned by this infestation in my neighboorhood and resolved to see just how bad the problem really was.
Since I couldn’t make it down to Lydney myself, I asked my mum if she’d take a jam jar over to the school grounds to track down one of the little critters and report back.
She was reluctant at first, but since my parents lived in Colombia in the eighties they’re no strangers to dangerous bugs.
“I remember once going to the medicine cabinet and accidentally pulling a snake out by its tail,” says mum. “But I never expected to be doing anything like that here!”
After a rummage in the cupboards mum found an empty jam jar and took the bus over to Lydney this morning. A couple of minutes’ walk and she was at The Dean Academy.
“The place is completely shut down,” she told me. “No one is around.”
The school grounds were roped off and she couldn’t get in, so I suggested she go for a wander in the playing fields and see how far the arachnid plague had spread.
Sadly, after almost an hour of foraging, mum came home empty-handed.
“I don’t think it’s the epidemic everyone claims,” she said later.
There is no record of a death from spider bite occurring in the UK, but, last week, a pensioner in Kent was left battling for his life after getting bitten by a false widow.
But, with the rapid growth in the species’ population throughout the British Isles, it’s probably only a matter of time before a baby or pensioner cops it.
I told mum it was best to give her boots a good bang before taking them back into the house.