CONSIDERING their size and demeanour, I never cease to be amazed by the number of people that are scared of spiders.

I’m not talking tarantulas here, just small, innocuous common or garden British spiders.

My son falls into this category, but fortunately his wife doesn’t, so that works well; at least it does most of the time. You see just last week, James was in the kitchen when he noticed a large spider making its way across the floor towards him.

Understandably, Mrs H was asked to do the honours and as always she obliged by scooping up the offending spider into a glass, but instead of heading towards the kitchen door she walked into the lounge and let it go.

“What are you doing?” asked my son aghast. “Why didn’t you put it outside?”

“Because it’s obviously a house spider,” she replied. “It doesn’t want to be outside in the cold!”

In a similar vein, I didn’t realise until recently that my daughter has a problem with garden snails. To be fair, I don’t think that she did either until I gave my youngest granddaughter a Snail World for her birthday.

Now Maisie, with her fascination for all creatures that walk, crawl, or slither upon this earth is, I feel, a natural historian in the making.

Snail World was, therefore, an obvious choice for her, as this small but comprehensive kit includes everything required to create a snail-friendly home, allowing inquisitive youngsters the opportunity to observe first-hand, the fascinating world of these small, slithery creatures. Maisie loved it.

With great care, the snail tank was prepared. Suitable bedding and food were placed inside, including egg shell and cuttlefish for healthy shell formation, and then it was time to go into the garden to collect a couple of snails to observe.

Maisie couldn’t wait, but it was at this point that her mum, who was the person in charge of transferring snails from garden to tank, discovered that she could not actually bring herself to touch one.

Fortunately, all was not lost as Dad came to the rescue when he got in from work a little later and a pair of snails were soon ensconced in their new, purpose-built home where they could be observed and studied.

Both Maisie and her sister found the creatures fascinating, loving the way in which they moved around the tank and devoured cucumber with such great enthusiasm.

Photographs were taken and Maisie was even considering placing a small spot of nail varnish on the back of each one, so that she could track their progress when they were re- released back into the wild in two days’ time, as per the instructions.

I am still not clear on who was actually responsible for ensuring that the lid of the snail tank was securely in place at bed time, but unfortunately it was my daughter who was first downstairs the next morning, to discover that the lid had been dislodged during the night and that the snails had escaped.

You wouldn’t think that a couple of snails would be so hard to find in such a small cottage, but apparently they were.

The following night the snails were still on the loose, so some food was left out for them and also a small amount of beer was placed in a saucer, as my son-in-law had heard that snails liked beer.

Next morning, the beer had gone and one snail was discovered on the kitchen ceiling, but the other was still missing. My daughter was not best pleased.

We never did manage to find the second snail, but we all agreed that as the kitchen door had been left open for much of the day, in order for Millie the Cavalier to wander in and out, the missing snail had more than likely found its way outside and re-joined its friend.

I’m not quite sure what Maisie might like for her birthday next year; was wondering about maybe some stick insects?