The predominance of grammatical analysis in this blog is hard on my readers – both of them – so I’ve made a new category called “stories” and this is its inaugural tale. It’s a cautionary, anti-climactic tale with elements of mild horror. The title sounds like a rejected David Bowie lyric, but it happened here about a week ago.
It was late in the evening and I switched off my computer, or so I thought. Abruptly it flashed up the Blue Screen of Death, my first experience of this infamous phenomenon. I took a photo and slept on it (the event, idiomatically; not the photo, literally).
The next day my PC pretended that nothing had happened, so I used it to read up on the Blue Screen of Death and then did some troubleshooting. For example, I found out what device drivers were, and I checked them. All clear. Someone suggested removing excess dust from the hard drive. That was a good idea, and I hadn’t done it in a while. So I opened the drive and there was dust, lots of dust, but that was the least of it.
Draped from corners to walls, from circuit boards to other bits, lay a spider web so thick, so extensive and so unexpected that I started back a few inches, half expecting a big hairy agitated spider to leap up and assail my intruding face. Luckily, nothing happened (there’s the anti-climax). What I gazed upon certainly wasn’t as spinneret-clenchingly creepy as this, or this. I closed my mouth and studied the silken catenaries. “So this is what it feels like to be a web browser”, I thought. It seemed my problem was not so much a Blue Screen of Death as a Hard Drive of Spiders.
Or was it? The web was irrefutable but its influence on the computer’s problems was, and remains, unknown. As were the whereabouts of its architect. The poor creature was probably even more surprised than I was, and had either hidden well or moved out in a hurry. I wouldn’t blame it for either. Unfortunately I didn’t take a photo of the web before I removed it, but I won’t forget it. In the way it hung heavily across the electronic insides of my computer, in a queasy combination of organic and technological material, it had the surreal quality of a science fiction dream. It’s no accident that spiders are so popular as movie villains.
The spider in the photo above is almost certainly not the one that spun the web I found in my computer, since their web styles are very different. And because it lives in a furze bush a few hundred metres away, and it seems quite content there. But for all I know, they might be friends. They might even have a mutual alibi agreement. I don’t make friends with spiders but I don’t fear them and I respect their spidery ways.
I even have a spider policy of sorts – for indoor encounters anyway. If I see a spider where it’s liable to be squashed or bothered, or to bother people to the point where they pick a fight with it, I move it outside. If it has spun a web somewhere discreet, where people won’t interfere with its business and vice versa, I leave it be, unless it reveals its arachno-femininity by having hundred of spider babies. That leaves an unpleasant dilemma for someone who grew up with Charlotte’s Web.
This spider had no fixed abode. I saw it scuttling across the fireplace and decided immediately to evict it. Its size and speed impressed me so I quickly took a photo before we said our goodbyes. Moving house isn’t easy for anyone so I left a gap between the glass and the card to maintain ventilation and reduce its anxiety. I admit that this manoeuvre was speculative.
This house has at least two long-term arachnid tenants. They have settled in corners so quiet I would wonder how they get enough to eat, had I not read Lyall Watson’s wonderful Heaven’s Breath: A Natural History of the Wind and discovered how much miniature life there is floating around unseen and unnoticed in the air, everywhere, all the time.
My modest adventure from screen of death to web of life has a lesson, if not a moral: next time you hear of someone experiencing a Blue Screen of Death, suggest that they check their computer for invertebrate residents.
Further reading: The Life of the Spider by Jean Henri Fabre.