The Thing Is with Steve Canavan - April 14, 2016

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Mrs Canavan and I rarely argue (nine times a day, maximum), but when we do it is usually about spiders.

We both detest them, me slightly more so.

I’ll never forget the utter shame in my father’s eyes when, during a car journey, a spider dropped on my lap and I screamed, jumped out of a moving vehicle (fortunately for me but not for the local undertakers, we were in slow-moving traffic as opposed to the fast lane of the M61), and wouldn’t get back in until my dad got rid of it. Our relationship was never quite the same again.

I’m not sure why I have this grave fear of the little blighters.

After all, I am around two million times bigger than your average spider, so that should, you’d think, give me the upper hand in any conflict.

However, I can’t help it – I just don’t like them.

The reason they provoke argument in the Canavan household is the way we dispose of them.

Mrs C will cautiously approach a spider with a glass in hand, carefully slide a piece of paper underneath the glass, and then take the eight-legged fiend outside and hurl it into the garden, usually accompanied by me shrieking ‘not there, it’ll come back in, go further away from house’ – and frogmarching Mrs Canavan and the glass down the road until we’ve gone an appropriately safe distance, usually about four miles.

My approach is very different, and somewhat more simplistic.

If I see a spider I will pick up a shoe (a Doc Marten boot is best, certainly nothing flimsy like a plimsoll or a flip-flop) and smash the spider so hard that it’s bodily juices splatter over a 30cm radius of wallpaper.

I grant you it isn’t the most humane way of getting a spider out of one’s property, but the upside is that it is, undeniably, highly effective.

And this is why we argue. Mrs Canavan doesn’t like me doing this, labelling it cruel.

To be fair, she’s probably right, and I’ve no doubt every animal-loving reader is at this very moment hurriedly grasping for a pen in order to write a stern letter of complaint.

But don’t send your letter to me, address it to my mother, who taught me all I know about this method of spider disposal.

You see, my mum is a serial killer when it comes to spiders, and she still fondly reminisces about an incident in late autumn 1962 when she killed four spiders which were scaling the lounge wall with a single swish of her platform heels.

So, you see, it’s all her 
fault I’m so vicious towards them.

However, I am aware that it is quite silly to have a phobia about spiders, especially as every single one in this country is completely harmless (especially if they’re stuck in a bathtub).

So, feeling brave – and wanting to end the arguments with Mrs Canavan – I went on a website called ‘Facing Your Fear of Spiders’ to see how they suggest overcoming one’s phobia of these pesky arachnids.

The first tip is, and I quote, ‘Expose yourself to spiders’.

Number one, this sounds risky, especially if you’re outside. My uncle Brian, for instance, got eight years for exposing himself (we don’t talk about him much and when we do my mother always remarks ‘well, he is from your father’s side of the family’).

Number two, surely it is being exposed to spiders that is the problem in the first place isn’t it?

Tip number two on this website – and I’m not making this up – is ‘Hold a toy spider’.

Tip five, meanwhile, reads ‘Go and see a therapist’, which sounds suspiciously like they’ve run out of tips if you ask me.

I stopped reading the website shortly after that, and, just for the time being, will patrol the house, stout shoe close at hand, just in case.

The internet does little to cure my impotence in the face of spiders

What you shouldn’t do if you’re afraid of spiders is go on the internet and look for facts about them. If you do, you’ll discover there is an average of three million spiders in every one acre of land. Terrifying.

The one place this isn’t the case is Antarctica – the only continent in which spiders aren’t found. (I’ve suggested moving there to Mrs Canavan, but we’re thinking of starting a family soon and she says it’s difficult to get childcare, the bus service is dreadful and they don’t even have a Nando’s).

A couple more vaguely interesting facts... the blood of a spider is light blue in colour (I know as it has been splattered across our kitchen wall on many an occasion); when a spider moves there are always four legs on the surface and four off it; and the most poisonous of the 40,000 species of spider in the world is the Brazilian wandering spider.

The latter grows to 15cm, lives on the floor and attacks anything that comes near it, and has a bite that can – if untreated for several hours – lead to impotence in a man.

Must dash, I need to get on the blower to Thomas Cook to cancel my summer holiday to Rio...