You can’t ask me that: What is it you’re really afraid of?

Screen Shot 2018-09-03 at 13.07.39It’s been a big year for spiders. The dry warm weather has seen back garden plants festooned with the kind of elaborate webs you just can’t build if it’s raining every two hours, as one would normally expect from a British summer. There have been plenty for the spiders to eat too, as flies proliferate on picnic rubbish. I am writing this under the watchful eye – or should that be eyes? – of a house spider as big as a mouse, which has set up home in a corner of the kitchen ceiling that can only be reached by standing on top of the fridge. Since I’m not due a visit from Mum or my sister, the spider can stay. I’ll call her Charlotte.

Spiders don’t bother me, but for around 45 per cent of Brits the idea of sharing kitchen space with an arachnid is the stuff of nightmares. Fear of spiders is Britain’s number one phobia, with a third of sufferers saying it affects their day to day life. It affects travel plans – better forget Australia. It causes anxiety and sleeplessness. It even causes embarrassment, such as that suffered by all three grown adults (including a prison officer) living in the house next door to my childhood home, who were trapped on the first floor by a spider sitting halfway up the stairs. They had to scream for my dad to come and rescue them.

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