It is not such a very long time ago when the only method we knew of what the weather was going to be like was by consulting some man, much older than ourselves, who, after studying the sky gave a solemn opinion that it was either going to blow before morning and if the wind didn't change we should have rain before a certain time, etc., etc. In due time we got to know the difference between "red sky in the morning, shepherd's warning, and red sky at night, shepherd's delight". Or think we did!
But Aunt Eliza could always let us know without that because of her "rheumatics" or grandfather's favourite corn. If that wasn't enough there was, in most country cottages, a little wooden house, with two doorways out of which popped a little man, if it was going to fine, or a little old woman, complete with umbrella, if it was going to be wet. If both stood in the doorway together it was a bit of a gamble - like the man who wanted to be buried with a harp and an asbestos suit.
Then came the period when a barometer was hung in the hall and solemnly tapped each morning.
This in time has largely given way to the practice of listening to the weather forecast on the wireless each morning.
This year, however, I have come across a new one. I asked the lady of the house where we were staying on holiday what the forecast was and she replied that she hadn't listened but "her spider had been out and that was a sure sign of a good day", Well, well. That was a fresh one to me so, naturally, I wanted to know more about it.
Outside the kitchen window there was a tiny crevice in which a fairly large-sized spider made his home - he must have just about filled it. From the top corners of the frame he suspended his web and at a rough measurement I should say it was about three feet square. Sure enough Bruce (obviously that's what I christened him) would come out if the morning promised to be fair, and after repairing the web from any damage during the night would hang patiently in the centre waiting for the small flies to get caught. If the morning was wet he didn't come out.
The lady also told me that if a wasp got caught in the web, Bruce would cut all round until the wasp could get free, afterwards repairing the damage.
Now, I'm not very partial to spiders. I don't know why, exactly, but they never seem to me to be the sort of thing on which I could lavish affection, but I am intrigued at what I saw and heard.
If, therefore, any reader can supply information on the habits and antics of our ordinary English spiders it will be gratefully received.
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Rev'd Martin Wheadon