Thursday, 13 April 2017

Aaaaargh! Kill it!

We all know lots of people who can’t abide spiders. Their immediate reaction is one of horror should one of these little creatures scurry across the carpet, and whilst nobody would want a co-habiting arachnid exploring their ears or nostrils, UK spiders are harmless. Actually – but don’t tell this to hysterical spiderphobes – all UK spiders can bite and do have venom. How else would they catch stuff to eat? But their fangs are too puny to penetrate human skin, and their venom is ineffective on us. Way more ineffective than say, a bee sting. We simply wouldn’t feel it. And spiders – especially the big(ish) brown house spider – the one that tends to fall in the bath isn’t called that for nothing. (Actually, their posh name is Tegenaria and they can live for up to seven years, providing some idiot doesn’t squash them). They are cohabitees, just as house mice are – but more of them later.

UK spiders are harmless
So why do so many people fear spiders? It's probably because of the way they walk (the spiders, not the people). They’re well endowed in the leg department, but they’ve only got two more than the much-loved bee. And they can’t fly and they can’t sting . The fact is that the bee – bumble, worker or otherwise has a far better PR machine than the spider.

Then there’s the slug. Oh dear. He/she/it gets a really bad press because they’re very good at eating almost anything humans plant in their gardens.

Quite often, my very house/garden proud neighbours go on pre-emptive strikes against slugs, scattering pellets, and spraying poisons over their little patch of Eden. Weirdly, they try to avoid snails because, well, snails are rather sweet, aren’t they? They carry their little houses around on their backs, don’t they? Actually, snails are merely slugs with an outer shell, and do just as much damage to your legumes as slugs do. I don’t think that slugs should be allowed to run riot – well not “run” exactly – but I also don’t think they should be exterminated. North American plains Indians killed a lot of buffalo , but they did it for meat and fur, unlike the white man who slaughtered millions – to the point of extinction, just for the hell of it.
Buffalo do just as much damage to your legumes as slugs do.

“Ah!”, says the expert – but slugs can carry lungworm eggs. Yes they can, but so can your dog.

The other morning, as I tottered into the kitchen, I noticed that I was being eyeballed by a tiny brown mouse who was sitting up, apparently leaning on the microwave. It had obviously gained access via the many holes in my admittedly wonky domestic security. Up a downspout or down an upspout. Anyway, we looked at each other for a while. The mouse cleaned its whiskers whilst keeping an exceptionally beady pair of eyes on the big fat human. I moved slowly and opened the back door, thinking that I’d be able to escort this furry little interloper into the garden. The mouse had other ideas. Running along the work surface and hiding under a colander was favourite.  I don’t know if mice have colander perception, but I could see the mouse and the mouse could see me. It cleaned its whiskers. But when I moved the colander, he/she got the drift, scurried down a mop handle and out into my garden, quite possibly to gossip with the slugs about the strange human who doesn’t kill mice and won’t squash slugs....     

Monday, 3 April 2017

Pangolin Packaging

Once upon a time, in the dear dead days beyond recall, stuff was easy to get into. By “stuff” I mean cans, bottles, boxes (large and small) and packets of pills, beans, pop, batteries, razor blades, elastic bands, string, coffee, and the little bells we put round cats’ necks to warn birdies of their approach despite the fact that this latter mostly doesn’t work because research shows that because intelligent cats know that their bell is on an elasticated collar, they can pull it outwards and become able to spit in the bell, leaving them free to slaughter at will.
But that apart, these days, stuff is getting harder and harder to actually open . This morning I noticed that my coffee jar was virtually empty. Its rather a handsome blue ceramic number with – helpfully – “coffee” written on it. Fortunately, I had a refill pack to hand which proclaimed that it was “resealable”.
That’s all very well. The real problem was opening the thing. They’re sealed up like those cardboard milk containers – apparently open bits at either end – and instructional exhortations to push the ends together thus breaking the seal across the middle. This is as good a way as any of spraying milk all over the place as any. Coffee refill packs are even worse and compel me to reach for a sharp knife with which to access yer actual coffee, rendering the resealable bit useless.
I sometimes think that the people in charge of sealing stuff up in factories move the dial on their sealing up machines from “easy to open” to “bloody impossible to open” – just for a laugh. I mean, being in charge of a sealing up machine’s got to be a tad boring, right?
And beans – baked ones. Once we had to labour long and hard with a tin-opener to get at them, but at least there was a sense of achievement therein.
Now, of course, all we have to do is pull the little metal loop fastened to the lid and…   but what if the little metal loop comes off without opening the lid? Deep frustration.
Batteries are the same – encased in a stout transparent container (stout? you could drive a tank over them) so that, frustratingly, you can see your prey, but you can’t get at it without a great deal of pulling and pushing – which doesn’t work – resulting in final recourse to a lump hammer. Interestingly, I’ve never bought a lump hammer which was inaccessibly sealed into anything.
Finally – pills. Once these came in little brown bottles with screwy lids which came off when you screwed them. Not now. To get at your much-needed medication, you have to press down, turn to the right, release downward pressure, turn to the left… a sort of medical hokey-cokey. But far worse than that are blister packs. These enable you to press on one side of the foil and flirt a pill yards across the room. My dog’s cholesterol levels are probably fine.

Oh, I forgot. Screws. They now come in impossible to open plastic packs which means that when something needs fixing, I resort to a damned big nail and my non-packaged lump hammer.