Dom Joly: Conkers, my secret weapon in the war on spiders

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The Independent Online

Apparently it's going to be a bumper autumn for spiders. Oh dear. I am a committed arachnophobe, and run screaming like a girl from any room in which the presence of one is even suspected. It's a true phobia –irrational, and totally without cause. And it's only spiders – I don't mind snakes, for example. (Well, I wouldn't say I like snakes but I'd leave a room containing one a tad slower than I would one with a spider in.)

My wife and daughter don't mind spiders whatsoever. Often I'll be summoned to a room for Parker to show me one nestling in her hand, so that she can delight in watching me run away in blind panic. She has a standard "girl phobia" of mice, so I often leave realistic toy mice in her bed just to get my own back. I know that it's not good parenting, but I'm vindictive like that. My wife is weirdly terrified of frogs. For her, I have perfected a particularly good frog impression that I use whenever she gets on my nerves.

My spider phobia is a huge problem whenever I go travelling. Sadly, my favourite destinations tend to be spider-heavy. One of the worst is Australia, where you are constantly warned to check your boots before putting them on and to give the loo a once-over before sitting down. This instils in me an almost permanent feeling of unease down under. Abroad, I can never truly relax – even when asleep I have a terror of spiders creeping over me. (There was a scene in a Bond film, Dr No, that might be responsible for that particular fear.)

If I do have to deal with the bastards, then I favour the use of a strong vacuum cleaner and give them one final exhilarating roller coaster ride up to the big spider's web in the sky. The problem with this is that I then find it difficult to use the Hoover again, as I know that their hideously decaying dead bodies are inside it.

Stacey thinks that this is just an excuse for me not to do any housework, but this is absolutely not the case: it's a medical condition (one that my GP will not take seriously, I might add). I tell her that I will put some frogs in a blender and then see how keen she is to do some cooking but she won't listen to reason. Women... can't live with them, can't live with them.

There are even certain members of my family who think that it's cruel to vacuum up spiders. By all accounts I should be coaxing the horrific monsters into a glass using a piece of a paper for a lid. I'm then supposed to let them run free outside to breed more of their evil kind who will return to wreak revenge.

I ask for advice on Facebook, home of every solution under the sun and then some.... One "friend" tells me that chestnut oil works wonders. She claims that if you rub the stuff on all your windows and doors, then spiders will not enter. This sounds too good to be true. So off I trot, down to Cirencester, and desperately try to find somewhere selling chestnut oil. Nobody stocks it and, quite frankly they all look at me as though I am a little, er, nutty.

I eventually resort to gathering conkers from the tree in the back garden. I try to squeeze them for juice, but am not successful. I end up piling barricades of conkers on every windowsill in the house. I know it will be ineffectual but I'm starting to break out in a sweat just thinking about the armies of arachnids gathering somewhere as I write, ready for the assault.

I'm not looking forward to this autumn. If you happen to be passing by my house and hear screaming, then please just carry on by. You know what's going on.