A Grand Clear Out!

My UK blogger-friend Mick is selling some of his artwork, and has asked for re-blogs! If he shipped to the U.S., I would be tempted to buy that Poppy, but sadly, postage between the U.S. and UK is cost-prohibitive, as I have learned the hard way. Still, if any of my UK readers are interested, take a look! Nice work, Mick!

Mick Canning

Most of you are probably aware of my Etsy store, where I put up some of my artwork for sale.

At the moment, I desperately need to make some space in the house, and so I am selling off a number of paintings for very much less than usual – not much more than the cost of materials and the postage.

If you’ve ever felt like owning one of my paintings (and, let’s face it, at least…er…one or two people have…) then now would be a good time. The only catch is that I’m only mailing them to UK, because otherwise it would still make them more expensive than I want to sell them at, due to the cost of the postage.

Payment would be by Paypal, which is a very secure way to pay and gives the buyer a lot of security.

The prices on here are the total…

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The Man & His Dog

It was on a Saturday afternoon just over two years ago that I first noticed the man and his dog in the reading area of our local Barnes & Noble bookstore.  It was obvious that the dog was a service dog, but the man did not appear to be blind or disabled, although he did not look quite well, either.  Though I was dying to speak to the dog, give him a pet or two, I did not approach, for I know that you aren’t supposed to distract a service dog. barnes-noble-2.JPGThe girls and I frequent this bookstore nearly every Saturday, weather permitting, except on weekends that daughter Chris has a band commitment, and I had never seen the man and his dog before that particular Saturday, yet several staff members appeared to know him well enough to greet both the man and the dog.  After an hour or two, we left the bookstore and I put the man and the dog out of my mind.

The next Saturday when we went, there were the man and the dog again, in the same place.  I noticed a little more, such as that the man had next to him a large tote bag, and every so often he would reach in and get a treat for the dog.  The dog was mostly well-behaved, but occasionally curious about somebody passing by and as he started to follow them, the man would give the lead a little jerk.

And this was the pattern for the next several Saturdays.  I learned the dog’s name before I knew the man’s, for occasionally the man would say, “Skipper … lie down”, but Skipper never spoke the man’s name.  One Saturday early on, a young boy around 8 or 9 came into the bookstore and, as is the nature of a boy, he gravitated over to Skipper to pet him.  The boy was of Middle-Eastern descent, a cute little guy with glasses as thick as Coke bottles, and while his English was quite good, he had a distinct accent.  The man seemed to brighten in the presence of the boy.

As the weeks passed, the man, recognizing me as a ‘regular’, began to occasionally make a bit of small talk, and I learned his name was Chad.  The boy, also, became a regular … his name was Mohammed.  Mohammed and Chad bonded, and they each gave something of value to the other.  Mohammed gave Chad, I think, a sense of purpose, and Chad gave Mohammed lessons in history, English, and just about any topic that came up in their conversations.  And Mohammed loved Skipper.

Over time, our bits of ‘small talk’ progressed, and we would have robust conversations, often delving into politics, and of course the ‘man’ in the Oval Office.  As we learned a bit about each other, I told Chad that I write a socio-political blog, but that these days it is more political than social, and I offered to email him a link to my blog, but he informed me he had no computer, only his cell phone, and no email address.  He asked if I could print a few and bring them to him, which I did, and he said he enjoyed them very much.

We became friends of a sort, I sometimes took little treats for Skipper, and Chad offered to take the girls and I out for dinner one Saturday evening, but we had just come from the restaurant across the street.  Chad always had a warm hug waiting for me. He could converse on nearly every topic imaginable, had traveled far and wide, and knew something about everything under the sun.  He shared so much of this knowledge with Mohammed and it was heart-warming to watch them together.

Admittedly, sometimes the conversation was a bit more than I wanted, when I really wanted time to quietly peruse a few books, but Chad seemed so lonely that I never had the heart to walk away from a conversation with him.  I discovered that he had no family nearby, he was 70 years old, his wife long since dead, and he had lived with his mother until her death, and that he was in very poor health.  The reason for a service dog was that he frequently had seizures, and Skipper could detect them before they happened and warn him to sit or lie down.  He was hospitalized a number of times during the year and a half I knew him, but he rarely missed a Saturday at Barnes & Noble.

Everybody … well, most everybody … loved Chad & Skipper.  The staff at the Starbucks café loved them, the bookstore staff did, and most of the regular customers came to know and love them.  People would wander over and chat for a few minutes, some even brought treats for Skipper.  A few customers occasionally seemed annoyed at finding a dog in the bookstore, but they were the exception.

Christmas 2018 was just over a week away, and I knew we wouldn’t be going to the bookstore for a couple of weeks, so I brought a Christmas card for Chad & Skipper, and we talked for a bit.  His daughter and son both lived in Florida with their families, and they had been trying to convince Chad to move to Florida where they could help him.  He didn’t want to go, had lived in Ohio for most of his life, and yet, he really had no life here.  His life was the public library and Barnes & Noble, for he spent every day, seven days a week at one or the other place, and yet, I rarely saw him with a book.  He came there for companionship, for someone to talk to.

That was the last time I saw Chad & Skipper.  When the holidays were behind us, the girls and I resumed our Saturday ritual, but for several weeks I didn’t see Chad.  I finally asked a friend of mine who works at the bookstore, and she told me that they had gone to Florida for Christmas but would be back in the spring.  It is now July, and they haven’t returned, so I’m pretty sure his kids convinced him to stay down there.  I have only seen Mohammed once since then.

So, you ask, what is the purpose of this little story?  Nothing, really, just musing on how sometimes people wander unexpectedly into your life, stay a short time, then they are gone, but yet they leave behind a little piece of themselves, a memory that brings a smile.  I will always cherish the memory of that brief year-and-a-half, and Saturdays in the bookstore chatting with the man and his dog.

Good News/Bad News

The good news is I’ve got my re-blog button back, and I am told that my ability to re-blog other’s posts has been restored as well, though I haven’t tested that yet.  Apparently during the muck-up the other night, WordPress installed some plug-ins, unbeknownst to me, and they were interfering with several things.

The bad news is that to fix the problem, WordPress had to restore my blog to a point before the troubles started, which was June 30th, so all my posts from yesterday and today are …

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As well as comments, etc., etc.  WordPress had me export the data to a file, which I did, then she reset my blog, but when I imported the data, an error occurred, and after working for 3 hours to get it resolved, I finally gave up.  So … I can recreate those posts, but I’m not sure I have the energy left to do so.  I may re-create “Killing Children”, for that was an important one, but I’m not sure yet.

I shall start fresh tomorrow.  Thanks for your patience … hopefully this is the end of this nightmare.  Sigh.

Letting The Mind Off The Leash …

I decided just to let my mind off the leash to ramble wherever it wishes this afternoon …

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Until today, we did not live on lakefront property …20190618_151141.jpgIt has rained almost constantly since Friday night, and this is the result.  This used to just be grass, but now I’m wishing I hadn’t given away my fishing rod ‘n reel several years ago!  For a time, the flowers were enjoying the rain, but now I hear their wee voices saying, “Enough already!!!”  Anybody have a small boat we can borrow, just in case?


I remember as a small child overhearing somebody say to my mother, “We lost our mom today”, and I remember wondering why they weren’t out looking for her if she was lost.  Why is it that some people find it so hard to say, “he died”?  It isn’t a difficult word … four letters, one syllable … died.  But instead people say someone “passed” … huh?  No, they didn’t pass … they died.  Or worse yet, is when they say the person “went home”.  No!  She died.  Period.  Call a spade a spade, because finding cutesy little ways of saying ‘he died’ isn’t going to bring him back to life, and it’s confusing as hell to children and those adults like myself who take words quite literally.


Having recently hit the big 6-8, a few friends have told me that 68 is “the new 40”, and one even told me that 80 is the new 40.  I don’t believe them, of course, for I know what being 68 feels like, and I can still remember what being 40 felt like … and believe me, 68 ain’t no 40.  But it made me start thinking … what is the average life expectancy in the U.S. now, and how does it compare to other nations?  It’s plenty old … 78 … but it doesn’t rank in the top ten, and doesn’t even make the top 50!  Surprised?

The U.S. ranks 53rd in the list of life expectancies, at 78.7 years, falling behind the Nordic countries (no surprise there) and almost every country in Europe and the UK.  We also rank lower than much of Asia, such as Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, and South Korea.  We even have a lower life expectancy than Puerto Rico. Why?  According to the British Journal of Medicine (BMJ), the answer is summed up in one word:  despair.

According to the report …

“In 1960, Americans had the highest life expectancy, 2.4 years higher than the average for countries in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). But the US started losing ground in the 1980s. US life expectancy fell below the OECD average in 1998, plateaued in 2012, and is now 1.5 years lower than the OECD average.

We are seeing an alarming increase in deaths from substance abuse and despair.”

If the substance abuse and despair were bad before, can you imagine what they will be like by the end of 2020?


And since after that, you need a laugh or two … heeeeere’s Jimmy!!!

Thoughts

There are days when my focus is sharp, I’m on a story like a dog with a bone.  Then there are days when my mind bounces furiously from topic-to-topic and I cannot seem to concentrate on any one for more than 47 seconds at a time.  Then, there are days like today when I am introspective, have some thought that isn’t particularly apropos of anything, but it stays in my mind, begging to be let out.  Thus, I share with you today, two of the thoughts that are meandering through the crevices of my mind.


An incumbent president should not be spending massive amounts of time campaigning for the next election, especially when that election is nearly two years away.  First of all, a sitting president has a full-time, all-encompassing job to do … it is what he was elected for, what he gets paid for, and what We the People expect him to be doing:  running the country.  Second, and perhaps even more importantly, if … IF he is doing that job properly, he has no need to be on the campaign trail, for his record will serve as his campaign.

In the case of the current officeholder, he has been on the campaign trail virtually since before he took office on January 20, 2017.  He officially filed his campaign with the Federal Election Commission on the day of his inauguration and began spending on his re-election campaign weeks before even taking office.  Could explain why he never had time for all those pesky transition meetings that were scheduled to help him learn his new job.  In December 2016, the month before his inauguration, he held nine campaign 2020 rallies!  He held approximately 64 rallies in 2017-2018, and has held an average of one per month this year.

Now, it seems to me that if he were doing a great job, as he claims, he wouldn’t need to go out and rile the masses with rhetoric, for his performance in office, the results of his hard work, would convince people to vote for him.  One earns respect, and he is in a position that he has every opportunity to earn the respect of the nation, but instead he chooses to do a poor job and rely on campaign rallies to help him keep that job.  Hopefully, the voters of this nation are astute enough to see that he can somewhat talk the talk, but after two-and-a-half years, hasn’t yet learned to walk the walk.

There is some evidence that voters are waking up, for in eleven battleground states (seven of which Trump won in 2016), Trump faces a net approval rating that’s in the negative. Several of those states have net disapprovals that are in the double-digits.  In Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan — three states that helped propel Trump to victory three years ago — Trump’s net approval ratings were -13, -7, and -12, respectively.

In business, the best strategy for keeping your job is to do a good job, rather than pandering to the bosses.  Trump claims to know a lot about business, but that is a lesson he has failed to learn.


In one corner of my kitchen, we have a three-tier metal rack on which we keep canned foods, among other things.  Yesterday, I was looking for a can of ancho chilies in adobo sauce, a small can buried somewhere among the cans of corn, tomatoes, and green beans, and as I searched, I found myself thinking about labels … how happy I was that all these cans had labels to tell me what was inside.  (Yes, I have strange thought processes.)  Labels, like almost anything else, can be useful if used properly.  What if, though, every can had a label that just read “Vegetable”?  Confusing, yes?  Surely corn, peas, green beans and the like are vegetables, but beyond that, they have differences that are important.

People are much the same … no, Joe, I’m not saying people are vegetables, though some might as well be.  There are times we have no choice but to label a person.  If I am witness to a hit-and-run accident, it might be necessary for me to describe the driver of the car by saying it was a white female with blonde hair.  That is not to say, however, that all hit-and-run drivers are white blonde women!  And that is what we do when we refer to republicans or democrats or journalists or immigrants as “the enemy”.  Sure, most republicans have some things in common, but they also have individual beliefs that may or may not fit in the label as we perceive it.  Christians, presumably, all believe in a higher being, but beyond that, there are vast differences in their set of beliefs.  Most Christians I know, for example, are not homophobic and have friends within the LGBT community.  Yet there are those, like Franklin Graham, who give the impression that all Christians are anti-LGBT when he says that Christians are “offended” by the rainbow-adorned gay pride flag.

Most of us are able to laugh off the labels people assign to us, for we know there is much more depth to us than the colour of our skin, our religion or lack of, our hair & eye colour, or level of education.  But, when we crucify people based on any of those traits alone, we automatically give ourselves a label:  bigot.  A bigot is defined as a person who is intolerant to those who are different or hold different opinions.  It takes many forms from racism to Islamophobia to misogyny, but the one thing they have in common is that they are self-limiting and cruel.

I could offer a thousand examples, but you all know what I’m talking about.  It’s when we hear people in power say, “all democrats believe in socialism”, or “all republicans are against abortion”.  Or when the head of government says that all Hispanics are gang members and rapists, all Muslims are terrorists, all women are sex objects.  We need to try harder to remember that the members of every group are unique individuals.  If we praise or criticize, we should do so based on actions alone, not on characteristics.  Criticize the group that sets out to burn a synagogue or burn a cross on someone’s yard, but criticize them for their actions, not for the colour of their skin or their religion.


Okay, I’m done thinking for today.  Yes, I know that was rather a rambling bit of monologue, but sometimes I just need to clear the detritus from my brain.  Thanks for listening!

Official Book Launch

I have BIG news! Our friend Roger, aka Heroically Bad Writer, aka Woebegone But Hopeful, has just published the second book in his series, “Of Patchwork Warriors:  The Precipice Dominions”!

Volume II picks up where Volume I left off, and according to the author … “Arketre (Flaxi) and Karlyn (Kitlin) have been making the best of diversion into a North Eastern princedom, sort of where Estonia is; they are having something of an extended working honeymoon. Trelli is settled in somewhere which might be Italy learning to cope with her powers under the tutelage of the Devoteds a very strong and tight group of women. Although separated three are soon together again wrapped up in a confusion of hidden agendas and one invasion.”

Curiosity piqued yet? Head on over to Amazon, or read Roger’s post here to find out how to get a free copy! And be sure to give Roger a big “congratulations”, for he has put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into this book.

Thanks Roger!!!

Apologies

I know that many of you look forward to Wednesday morning’s ‘Good People’ post, and I do know how important it is in these troubled times to remind ourselves that there are a lot of good people out there doing their part for humanity.  But tonight, a good degree of angst over yet another school shooting with at least one fatality, among other news, has my mind bouncing and keeping me from the task at hand.  Fear not, for there are many good people about which to write, and it is not their fault, but only my own.  I have tried for four hours and have produced very few words on the page.  I am simply not able to provide a ‘good people’ post right now.  I hope to have one later this week, however today, I simply cannot, and for that I apologize.  Thank you, my friends, for your patience.

Saturday Surprise — Artists Take On Notre-Dame

Welcome to the

weekend

I was not at a loss for this morning’s Saturday Surprise post, in fact was debating between taking you to either a turnip festival or a bread-arches festival.  But then an email popped up and when I saw it, I thought … hmmm 🤔 … maybe.  Monday’s fire at the Cathedral of Notre-Dame has prompted an outpouring of sadness from all around the globe.  It has also inspired artists to do some beautiful artwork that I thought I’d like to share with you today.  But first, I must share with you my embarrassingly funny story from this past week.

Those of you who have followed this blog for a while may remember last September when my dishwasher went kaplooie.  I contacted the rental office … day after day … for 8 bloomin’ weeks, then finally contacted the property owners, and it was fixed the following day!  The apartment manager was also terminated that week, but I’m not sure if there is any connection.  Anyway, just before Thanksgiving they did bring a new … brand new, still in the box … dishwasher, and all was well.

Then last week, I turned the dishwasher on Tuesday morning, but … nothing happened.  Nada.  Zilch.  Sigh.  So, I contacted them … actually, Miss Goose did, for I don’t think she liked seeing me getting ready to go to the rental office with my 18-inch rolling pin in my hand.  They said they would ‘try’ to get to it within two weeks.  Frustrated I was, but what can one do but … wait.  Well, this week on Tuesday, I had just gotten out of the shower and come downstairs, hair still wrapped in a towel, and there was a pounding on the door.  The maintenance dude!  Okay … I happily lead him to the kitchen where … there was a blob of cat puke right in the middle of the kitchen floor.  I wanted the earth to open up and swallow me.  Unfortunately, it didn’t.  But wait … it gets even better!

The maintenance man walks over to the dishwasher, looks at the wall above it, flips the switch on the wall, and … PRESTO! … the dishwasher springs to life.  Now I really, really wanted the earth to open up and swallow me.  Again, it didn’t.  Folks, I had checked the breaker, had inspected all around the switches and contacts for some food particles or grease, had tried everything short of taking the thing apart.  But I never even thought about the switch.  We never turn it off!  Best I can figure is it accidentally got turned off one time that one of us was turning off the switch next to it that controls the garbage disposer.  I felt about as stupid as I’ve ever felt, and I kept repeating, “I’m so sorry … I am so stupid …” until he finally patted my shoulder (I’m pretty sure he just wanted to get away from this crazy ol’ hag so he could go to his truck and have a good laugh) and assured me it could have happened to anybody.  Sigh.

And now, how about those pictures I promised?

On 15 April 2019 around 6:50 p.m., a fire broke out in the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris. One of the most famous historical buildings, it has a strong value to Parisian and French culture and is one of the most famous buildings in the world with around 13 million tourists every year. After the tragic news about the iconic cathedral burning went viral, many artists showed their respect to the monument by drawing it.

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The construction of Notre-Dame started back in 1163 and it was finished almost 200 years later in 1345. It’s important to mention that the iconic spire was added only in the 19th century. Notre-Dame isn’t only known for its incredible architecture, it was also the cathedral in which Napoleon’s coronation by Pope Pius VII took place in 1804.

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Since Notre-Dame was first built around 700 years ago, the building required constant renovation. During the last few years, it was in desperate need of reconstruction and that’s exactly what was happening before the fire broke out. The renovation was supposed to cost €6 million. Fires often break out during renovation so it is believed that this might have been the case with the Notre-Dame Cathedral.

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Recent news declare that there have been €1 billion donated to the reconstruction of the Notre-Dame Cathedral which has caused some controversy online. Many people claim that during the past few years there have been many tragic losses around the world, with many people losing their home and their loved ones, yet nobody has ever donated this much money to any of the causes. Notre-Dame example shows how many of the world’s problems could be solved if the world’s richest people would donate to those in need.

These are only a few of the artists’ pictures inspired by this tragedy.  For more, check it out on Bored Panda. Have a great weekend, my friends!

Saturday Surprise — Izzy and Spiders!

Welcome to the WEEKEND!!!  I know you’re all excited to have a three-day wee … what’s that?  It’s not a three-day weekend?  Let me look at my calendar again … I could have sworn … oh … never mind.  Well, let me start over … I know you’re all excited to have two days off from work!  Yeah, kind of falls flat, doesn’t it?  Still … spring is nearly here, so that is definitely something to be thankful for, don’t you think?

I start this morning’s Saturday Surprise sharing a bit of a personal story.  You remember when I introduced you to the Significant Seven back in May of last year?   Since then the Sig-Seven have become the Sig-Six, for Orange died last summer, at the ripe (for a cat) old age of 19.  I mentioned that Isabella, Izzy for short, has serious issues, the most likely scenario being that she has the feline version of autism.  She comes out from under the sofa several times a day, but all it takes is a look or a word to send her scurrying back under.

The other day, I was at the store buying the usual 50-pound bag of kibble when I spotted a toy.  It was about 2-feet long, shaped like a wedge of cheese, with holes of varying sizes and two toy mice dangling from strings inside.  Now, our cats have two laundry baskets filled with toys, plus a kitty condo, kitty beds, and … well, they are spoiled.  But when I saw this toy, something just tapped me on the shoulder and said … Izzy will like this.  It was on sale, so long story short, we now have a cheese wedge in the living room floor along with a myriad of other “kitty things”.

But I was right!  Izzy does like it!  See for yourself …20190307_144857.jpg20190307_144908.jpg20190307_144912.jpgEven better, though … she actually let Miss Goose brush her, for the very first time ever!20190222_162702.jpgSo, perhaps she is beginning to get just a smidge braver?


I was doing my usual scan of news sources yesterday when I came across something in The Guardian that I thought would make a lovely Saturday surprise!  Now, I know some of you have an aversion to things that walk on eight legs, but these are truly so gorgeous, so different, that even you will be enchanted.  Well, all except perhaps the last one. blue-legged-tarantulaThis is the Blue-Legged Tarantula, only recently documented by arachnologists Ray Gabriel and Danniella Sherwood in the Journal of the British Tarantula Society (who knew there even was such a society?)  Isn’t he beautiful?  Malaysian naturalists, however, claim that they first photographed the spider in the wild and that the specimens were illegally removed from their habitat.  A fight over a spider!


peacock-parachute-spiderThis Peacock parachute spider is huge – about 20 centimeters or 8 inches in diameter! He gets his name from his purply-blue, metallic legs and his habit of jumping down from trees.  According to Matthew Robertson, senior keeper of invertebrates at ZSL London Zoo, this spider …

“Can deliver quite a painful bite as it parachutes on to the top of your head.”

Ummmm … maybe not, thank you anyway.  They are extremely rare and indigenous only to a small area in India.


peacock-jumping-spiderPeacock jumping spiders are extraordinarily colourful, with the additional draw – particularly compared with the peacock parachute spider – of being only a couple of millimetres long. According to the experts, jumping spiders behave much like dogs or cats.  Hmmmm …


 

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Mirror sequined spider

Robert Whyte, an Australian spider expert, first caught sight of this tiny spider when its sparkly abdomen caught the light like a disco ball. The silvery sheen is made of guanine, a digestive by-product. Says Mr. Whyte …

“Instead of excreting it all out into the environment through their poo, some of it excretes out onto the surface of the gut.”

Well, that’s rather … yuck … but it is a beautiful spider!


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Red-legged golden-orb weaver spider

This spider – found in South Africa, Madagascar and elsewhere around the Indian Ocean – is not just four pairs of pretty legs. Like others in the Nephilinae subfamily, it is known for its webs of impressive structural stability, strong enough to entrap birds and even bats. The web also glows gold in the sun, hence the name.


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Wasp spider

This very large, very colourful spider resembles a wasp in order to protect itself from predators, although it is not dangerous itself. Its commitment to the aesthetic extends to its web, which has a wide, white zig-zag strip running down the middle for no clear functional purpose.


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Crab spider

The crab spider isn’t quite as eclectic as some of the others, but I think it’s cute!  Instead of spinning a web, it conceals itself within flowers to ambush its prey, changing its appearance to match.  Clever little dude!  Rather like a chameleon.  According to Mr. Robertson …

“If they live on yellow flowers, they tend to be yellow. They sit there waiting for some poor unfortunate bee to come along, then they nab them. It’s quite grim.”

Ah, well … a spider’s got to eat, y’know.


desertas-wolf-spiderAnd last, but not least, we have the Deserta wolf spider!  These guys are a critically endangered species, and in 2016 a captive breeding program was set up at Bristol (UK, not Tennessee) Zoo with 25 individuals being captured and taken to the zoo, over 1000 spiderlings were produced in 2017 and it is hoped that some of these can be reintroduced to Desertas to boost populations.

And I also stumbled across an interesting tidbit positing that a fear of spiders is actually in our DNA …

Recent research has claimed that a fear of spiders is a survival trait written into our DNA. Dating back hundreds of thousands of years, the instinct to avoid arachnids developed as an evolutionary response to a dangerous threat, the academics suggest.

It could mean that arachnophobia, one of the most crippling of phobias, represents a finely tuned survival instinct. And it could date back to early human evolution in Africa, where spiders with very strong venom have existed millions of years ago.

Study leader Joshua New, of Columbia University in New York, said: ‘A number of spider species with potent, vertebrate specific venoms populated Africa long before hominoids and have co-existed there for tens of millions of years.

‘Humans were at perennial, unpredictable and significant risk of encountering highly venomous spiders in their ancestral environments.’


And on that note, I shall leave you to your weekend!  Keep safe and enjoy it, however you spend it!Weekend