When growing up, I was fascinated by all kinds of wildlife. I was just as fascinated by insects, spiders, slugs and snails and suchlike as I was with animals and birds. As a little girl, I was utterly fearless when it came to wildlife (although very shy in front of strange people!). I believed all little creatures had the potential of being my friends (and I theirs) if they just had the time to grow accustomed to me.
At the house where I spent the first thirteen years of my life, the garage was sunk into the hill on the side of the road, with a tarmac roof which could be easily sat on, or climbed on, from the garden. (There was, of course, a barrier before the drop on the other side.)
The tarmac would grow warm on sunny days and I would perch or lie on it, and examine the honey bees buzzing around the Cranesbill Geraniums with grew up round the sides. Initially wearing gloves, I would somehow “persuade” the bees to climb onto my fingers. After a while, I grew more confident and took the gloves off, and watched them climb onto my fingertips. No, not once was I stung; though it’s not something I would try now – and I suspect my parents would not have been entirely happy with this activity!
It simply did not occur to me that these creatures would hurt such a friendly little girl as I was! Even when wasps chased me across the school playground, I would be proud of the fact that they preferred me to the others – although this sentiment would change rather drastically in the future. My enthusiastic attitude towards the attention of wasps ended one day, when sitting in the school hall, I suddenly felt an intense stinging pain on the back of my neck. A drowsy wasp must have landed there and, as I shifted my head, felt threatened and stung me. We found it flailing on the floor afterwards. I’m afraid an unprovoked wasp sting rather effected my attitude…
Anyway. Enough about wasps! I would go around the garden collecting slugs, snails, or woodlice (‘chiggy pigs’ as I knew them), giving them leaf matter or roots/wood to eat. I would watch with fascination as pregnant woodlice gave birth to dozens of tiny white miniature selves, turning them upside down (poor things!) to watch the babies moving around in their parent’s ‘tummies’. The naturalist in me, I suppose! I would hope I didn’t poke or prod at them, but I suspect most small children do, and I wasn’t any different.
As for spiders…well there were plenty of spiders in my life, the house being what it was – big brown ones in the bath and sinks were regular, and there were plenty of fascinating garden spiders outside, hanging on their webs. Intrigued by what they would do, I would put a tiny piece of grass in the web, and watch them ‘tidy’ it up and throw it away. I confess I also offered up the occasional woodlouse (!!) to watch the spider wind it up. I found it frustrating that a fly never got caught while I was watching…
At school, a certain group of boys would frequently come up to the girls with cupped hands, saying they were holding a big spider. This would cause some to back off, shrieking, but I and another friend held our ground until they confessed there was no spider. Growing bored of it, I went and found a big, hairy, house spider and walked up to those very same boys with the spider in my cupped hands. Of course, they didn’t believe me for an instant. When I opened my hands, it turned out they could run and scream with the best of them!
As I grew up, childhood courage receded and adult fear crept in…I brace myself at the sight of a wasp and try not to hurtle off until it gives up bothering me. (Do I smell nice to wasps, or something?!) I won’t handle a spider unless I absolutely have to, although if there’s a room full of shrieking adults I will gently pick one up and throw it out the window on their behalf. And daddy long legs (crane flies) are my worst. It’s fine if they are just minding their own business, but if they fly towards me, they cause a great deal of frantic hand flapping and leaping about lest they fly in my face (and hair!).
The child that I was would look on in astonishment at all the fuss – and, I suspect, no small amount of superiority…
Today: 4/10, medium