I'm beginning to think that London Zoo has mistaken me for someone else. I keep getting emails from this venerable institution that assume I want to get up close and personal with eight-legged freaks. Well, the zoo calls them spiders, but I know the truth.
The most recent message was to let me know that booking for Bedbugs "a sleepover with a difference" for children that "gives excited kids the chance to get up-close to our amazing invertebrates after dark" is now open. Given that it gives younglings a chance to find out "which arachnids have red knees", I can see that this would be a different kind of sleepover than the ones I enjoyed as a child. One filled with shrieking from preteens who've just discovered that spiders have knees regardless of their hue. Inconceivably, the first few dates are already sold out. I'm not a fan of spiders. Small ones give me the creeps, plate-sized ones with knees make me want to move to outer space. Just because something is furry (dear God) doesn't mean it's cute. I'm at peace with my phobia inasmuch as I don't have to come face-to-face – although I don't think that something with so many goddamn eyes strictly speaking has a face – with spiders that often. Just the odd one at home, plus on the pages of newspapers that run stories about arachnophobia with a ruddy great picture of one of the horrors without any warnings. Seriously, I've campaigned against editors doing that here. Join me.
Anyway, I'm not keen to take up London Zoo on the other event it's contacted me about: the Friendly Spider Programme. I'm happy to keep my distance and leave my phobia be. Everyone I've asked is frightened of something and one person's spider is another's rat, tall building, deep water or, um, price tag. Yes, one colleague is scared of rats and price tags ("Imagine a rat with price stickers all over it. UGH," she shuddered, when I asked.) Unless she was planning to work in a shop selling vermin, I imagine she'll get through life without needing to go on a programme. Of course, if you're frightened of lifts, flying, going through tunnels or being stuck in crowded spaces, I can see the value in trying to get over it in order to live a fuller life. I salute anyone who's brave enough to face their phobia in a bid to banish it, but frankly, I feel as though my life is sufficiently full without cluttering it up with knee-laden monsters. Although thinking about it (not too hard, otherwise I'd run screaming from my desk), if spiders have knees, do they have ankles? Actually, London Zoo, please save that fact for someone else.