What I tell you three times is true

“Just the place for a Snark!” the Bellman cried,
As he landed his crew with care;
Supporting each man on the top of the tide
By a finger entwined in his hair.

“Just the place for a Snark! I have said it twice:
That alone should encourage the crew.
Just the place for a Snark! I have said it thrice:
What I tell you three times is true.”

from The Hunting of the Snark, Lewis Carroll

My colleague Lily told me yesterday that spiders don’t like conkers, and I am starting to believe her.

I say, starting to believe her, because if I recall (and I may be wrong) she told me something similar this time last year.

If she did, it is not so surprising, this being the season of big spiders. I know it is the season of big spiders, partly because I have seen quite a few big spiders, and partly because I happened across a scary story in the newspaper about a plague of especially big spiders in Macclesfield. The story assured me that the spiders (giant house spiders – apparently also the fastest spiders in the world) wouldn’t be satisfied to stay in Macclesfield, but would shortly be migrating en masse, and very quickly, to the Newmarket Road.

We like to think that news is a running chronicle of whatever is most new in the world, but in fact it runs in cycles, like an eighteenth century almanac. Each year at the stated time we hear of the most depressing day in the year (last Monday in January), ‘A’-level results, policemen dancing at the Notting Hill Carnival, Perseid meteor showers, hurricanes in the Caribbean, Bank Holiday Monday traffic, spider epidemics, and so on and on, year after year, down to the final long blank un-newsworthy silence of the grave.

It used to be that spiders in September was not news but just knowing stuff. You knew that spiders got fat in September, you knew that conkers warded them off, and that was that. But now you have to be reminded, annually, on the news.

Having said all that, I should admit that in the matter of spiders and conkers, if I knew, I had forgotten. Perhaps the news cycle is just a didactic vehicle, like a sort of Church calendar. If it comes around enough times, some of it might start to stick. Next year, when Lily tells me about the conkers, perhaps I won’t look so surprised.

Hunting of the Snark – Henry Holiday

Hunting of the Snark – Henry Holiday

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