Picture from bbc.co.uk

Here we go again. I’m visiting my mum in India who seems very well, thank you. Squawking her perky witticisms, she seemed fine when I eventually arrived here this evening, having been held up by holding patterns at Mumbai airport and an accident on the expressway, which caused almost an hour’s tailback that evaporated as the rubbernecking drivers passed the scene then sped up again.

Dinner this evening wasn’t very palatable, so I’m grateful for the spur of the moment shortbread I bought at Gatwick upon realising that I’d forgotten my emergency can of instant coffee. No. There was none of that on sale so I bought a huge packed of assorted tea bags. This is an emergency, after all.

Now, one of the things I get to do when I’m here is watch BBC World, and an interesting item from Australia caught my attention. You’ve heard of funnel web spiders, normally prefixed “deadly?” Well, they’ve caught the biggest one ever found, Big Boy, whose leg span measures 10cm!

There’s a venom milking project in New South Wales and they use the spider’s poison to make precious anti-venom. The project is encouraging people to catch them from their back yards – there’s a video which shows you how to do this safely without harming the spider – and they hope that 300 funnel webs will be caught this year.

Once at the venom-milking project, the spiders are encouraged to rear up and strike so their venom can be harvested by pipette and made into anti-venom. Each spider strike yields 1/1000 ml of venom, so you can see why they need so many spiders, but they can only milk the spiders once a week lest they become exhausted. Poor spiders, how stressful it must be knowing that you’re always under threat and expected to strike back. What of they’re having an off day when they’re not feeling like being aggressive? What if they just want to sit back with a cup of tea and a bun doing the crossword like a sort of arachnid Alan Bennett?