Hillyfields, Lewisham. Photo © David Secombe 1999.
Deadly spider eggs found in supermarket bananas *
WHEN Heidi Slopes did her weekly food shop she picked up an innocent looking pack of bananas – little did she know that between the yellow fruit lurked a nest of spiders. The 53-year-old, who is scared of spiders, had the shock of her life when she spotted the white furry eggs.
“I usually buy a bunch of bananas but, ironically, I thought buying packaged ones would eliminate the chance of any creepy crawlies!” said Heidi, who lives in Lewisham with her husband Laszlo, 53. “My husband opened them and put them in the fruit bowl. I looked down and saw little white balls and suddenly panic stations were all go!”
Heidi wanted to get the suspicious package checked out, and after a phone call to health and safety at Lewisham council she was advised to take them back to the supermarket. “It took almost five hours of numerous phone calls to get hold of someone at the store, only to be told that I would need to bring the packaging and the receipt in for a refund,” said mother-of-three Heidi.
RSPCA animal collection officer Terence Whipps subsequently confirmed that the eggs were those of the Brazilian Wandering Spider, listed in the Guinness Book of Records a the most venomous animal in the world. It’s scientific name is Phoneutria nigriventer – the first element is Greek for ‘murderess’ – but it is also known as the banana spider because of its habit of stowing away in shipments of the fruit.
A supermarket spokesman said: “We want to reassure customers this was a very unusual and rare occurrence and we are really sorry for what must have been a real scare”.
Heidi is unmoved. “My little Juanita recently watched the film Charlotte’s Web and told me that there can be 64,000 eggs in one nest, so that made me even more paranoid! I just thought of my kids and how a spider bite could have changed things completely. I’m just so relieved they didn’t hatch. I wasn’t about to go rifling through my recycling bin just to claim £1.49 back. I was surprised that they were more concerned about the packaging than deadly spiders in their bananas.”
Mr.Slopes commented: “It gave us a real fright and no mistake. Supermarkets should be more careful. Horse meat I can cope with, but venomous spiders are another matter.”
* NB: not real news item … the above was drawn from The Daily Mail, BBC News website, Cardiff Online, etc. The first in an occasional series …
Pig’s head still life, south London, circa 1982. © David Secombe.
From the Hern’s Tribe website:
Mid-Winter Solstice (Yule): Outdoor Ritual in London
A special ritual to mark the end of one Mayan cycle and beginning of another. Join us for the Journey of the Fool, and quest through the 4 Elements to consecrate a magical Talisman. Anoint the Yule-log (yes a real one) with your wishes & hopes for 2013, and place it in the ritual fire. Then feast with home made bread, mulled Wine, some woodland tribal cooking. Don’t forget the Mistletoe! There will be Wiccan elements to this ritual.
Date: Saturday 22nd December 2012. Venue: Coombe Lane (From East Croydon station, take the `New Addington’ branch of the Tram, and get down at `Coombe Lane’ stop).
Yule celebrations in Wicca date back to the late 1950s. Most Yule rituals will involve the casting of a circle, a ritual symbolising the rebirth of the solar deity, dancing round the circle and the feasting ceremony of ‘cakes and wine’. Other Wiccan covens might base their ritual on the passing of power from the Holly King to the Oak King – a concept derived from British folklore. The festival itself is entirely Pagan in origin. Echoes of old Druidic fertility rites survive in ‘kissing under the mistletoe’. Santa Claus has been Christianized as Saint Nicholas, but the tradition of a gift-bearing man arriving at mid-winter can be traced back to Wotan (Odin) in Germanic folklore.
Feasting is a large part of all Pagan traditions and at Christmas this is still a principle element. The focus of the meal around a specific animal is certainly a residue of animal sacrifice, although the popularity for turkey is a modern development. We should not be squeamish about animal sacrifice, it simply meant butchering an animal for the benefit of the community with a small and usually inedible portion being ‘given’ to the gods. Modern sensibilities are usually too cosseted to even contemplate killing a chicken, so we should not condemn the past on our own rather feeble standards.
I would like to reassure my readers that the pig in the photo above was not the by-product of any crazed sacrifice, Wiccan or otherwise: it was prosaically acquired from a local butcher for the alleged purpose of making brawn, which was a fatuous attempt to disguise an equally fatuous artistic project. It was the early 1980s and I was an ambitious photographic student, my hunger for success exceeded only by the depth of my cluelessness. This porcine still life was shot on a cold December night in the back garden of my parents’ house in suburban south London, and was a study for – well, I wasn’t quite sure. It seemed like a good idea at the time … The transparency laid undisturbed for decades until it turned up in a cache of forgotten transparencies I found last month. I offer it here as a seasonal offering in a more-than-averagely bleak midwinter; we’ve still got a week to go before the solstice on the 21st, and if the Hern’s Tribe lot are anything to go by, the south London suburbs are going to be where it’s at if paganism is your thing. As for me, I’ll be indoors, watching an old Ghost Story for Christmas on YouTube. Or perhaps this … (and I’m sure you’ll forgive the shameless plug).
… for The London Column.
Stoke Newington. © David Secombe 2009.
The London Column has been a little inactive this month, partially delinquency on the part of your correspondent and partially a feeling that the London Olympics had taken all the air out of the city; small, mordant observations about life in the ‘Great Wen’ seemed out of place in the midst of such frantic flag-waving. But, Paralympics notwithstanding, there is that ‘back to school’ feeling in the air: autumn is nearly upon us, the flags and bunting will fade and get wet, and it will soon be business as usual.
There’s only so much jubilation a city can stand …
Greenwich Park. Photo © David Secombe, 1998.
From Mystic London, Rev. Charles Maurice Davies, 1875:
When a man’s whole existence has resolved itself into hunting up strange people and poking his nose into queer nooks and corners, he has a sorry time of it in London during August; for, as a rule, all the funny folks have gone out of town, and the queer nooks and corners are howling wildernesses. There is always, of course, a sort of borderland, if he can only find it out, some peculiar people who never go out of town, some strange localities which are still haunted by them; only he has to find them out – people and places – for it is so universally allowed nowadays that all genteel people must be out of London in August . . .
The Rev. Davies’s observation has acquired a new significance during the 2012 Olympic Games, as the Olympiad has driven a significant number of full-time Londoners into temporary exile. So this week on The London Column we offer a brisk tour of some of the quieter corners of London parks in the company of those Londoners who didn’t make it out of town and who haven’t made it on to a corporate hospitality list.