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Mr Leggy has left the building (for a while)

By Ali Sparkes

You might think this is just Children’s Book Week but it’s also another significant week on the calendar. It’s National Spiders Come In Week.

So there I was, just the other night, settling down in my nice tidy hotel room, just about to nod off. I had a visit to a school the next day and needed a good eight hours’ sleep.

And then I saw it. Creeping across the ceiling. A HUGE black spider. Like this:


Now, as you may know, I am the author of SWITCH: Spider Stampede. I know a bit about spiders after all the research I’ve done on creepy crawlies (my heroes, Josh and Danny, get SWITCHed into them in book one, you see).

So, when I see a spider I do not panic. I do not scream. I catch it in a glass and carefully put it outside.

And yes, I know it’ll probably just come back in again as soon as it’s good and ready, but I like the idea that it’s outside and not inside at least for a while.

For as much as I marvel at what an amazing creation a spider is (and they really are amazing) I still can’t quite get over the CREEP OUT factor. It’s too deep in my bones.

So. Back to the hotel room. This was a biggie. And it was up high on the ceiling, casually ambling about and showing no sign of coming down. I grabbed a glass and a bit of card but it was too high to reach – and exactly the right size and weight to suddenly drop with a sinister pat on my bed in the night. Mwahhhaameeergallurg. If you know what I mean.

So, thinking fast, I dug a long cardboard foil roll holder out of my case (it’ll take too long to explain why I carry such a thing) and encouraged the spider down to the floor.

And I SWEAR it made an angry noise as it fell. A sort of clicky buzzing sound as it plummeted through the still air of my quiet hotel room. I dropped the roll and hit the floor, ready with my glass and my card.

But the spider had VANISHED. In an instant. I had no idea where it had gone, so spent several goosebumpy minutes searching the carpet, the lower walls, the undersides of all the furniture. NOTHING. It was clearly spider with super powers, able to slip through the fabric of space and time as easily as through a crack in the wall.

I like to think that it emerged in a parallel universe just as the parallel Ali Sparkes (who’s much more beautiful, rich and successful than me) was raising a glass, awaiting some champagne to toast her latest runaway bestseller.

Then Mr Leggy (as I’ve come to remember him) suddenly shot through the rip in the space-time continuum and just went PLOP into her glass instead.

As it was, I spent the night in a state of intermittent shudder. Every hour or so I’d wake up and freak out at the sensation of my own HAIR on my shoulder.

I wish I could get over this kind of nonsense. Next spider I see, I’ll try to imagine it’s Josh or Danny, temporarily SWITCHed into an eight legged beasty. Try to like it. Care about it. Look at life from its point of view.

Or maybe imagine it’s a mum with kids.

And a husband. Oh no. Scratch that. She most likely ate her husband…

I think we shudder because somewhere deep, deep in the ancient animal part of our brain, we know that some spiders are dangerous. If you live in Australia, you’ve every reason to get a bit jumpy if a black widow wanders across your ceiling. They’re venomous enough to kill a human.

In the UK, where I live, the most we have to fear is a false widow which can cause a bit of a reaction in the kind of person who’s allergic to bee stings. So not much of a threat. We have them in our house and nobody’s been bitten yet. Although my teenage son was quite freaked out when one fell on his head recently… This is what I found in the kitchen the next morning:


So we really should all just CALM DOWN about spiders.

They’re a vital part of the ecosystem. They’re graceful and acrobatic. They create the most amazingly beautiful silken webs, particularly gorgeous and glittering in the dewy month of October. They’re astonishing feats of nature’s engineering, They’re AAAAAAARGH THERE’S ONE ON ME AAAAARGH! GETITOFFGETITOFFGETOOOOOOOOOOFFMEEEEEEEE!

Ali Sparkes is a journalist and BBC broadcaster who regularly exploits her sons as an in-house focus group for her children’s novels. She reckons it’s a fair trade for being used as a walking food and drink vending machine. Ali’s stories capture the imagination of children everywhere, and her novel Frozen in Time won the Blue Peter Book of the Year Award in 2010. She is the author of SWITCH: Spider Stampede, amongst many others.

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Image credits: Both images by Ali Sparkes.

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