Many moons ago, or we should say summers ago (1972), we were living on an estate (Quinta) on beautiful Madeira. We hadn’t planned to go there; we were in Morocco. It was memorable but the Sahara winds brought too much sand and interfered with my painting. Since the technique was pointillism (dot by dot), all those little grains (more dots!) were interfering.
I remembered Portuguese Madeira was not too far off. We rented a cottage/studio at a Quinta up in the hills of Santo Antonio. (Our abode now is right at the seashore. Here there are no flies at all. And that is why I am sharing this story.) Off Madeira lie some islands: Porto Santo, and the barren Islas Desertas, home to the Wolf Spider.
Each morning I worked on “Organiverse”. One afternoon we met a long-bearded Austrian who looked like a monk from Mt. Athos. He told us about the wolf spiders of Islas Desertas, because, you see, he would go there and bring some of those hairy 8-legged critters back to his home.
He invited us for lunch one day and picked us up in his sportscar. He was the worst driver, completely reckless. We met his beautiful French wife and three lovely children. The spiders were kept in glass cases. With a long narrow stick he started to poke them. One stood up on its ‘hind legs’, fangs came out, showing angry glowing eyes. “You try it”, he told Natasha. “No thanks”, said she. “They’re angry enough as it is”. But with a grin he laughed and cackled away.
These spider cases were all kept in their bedroom. “To keep Mrs on her toes.” However she told us if he lifts the lids of the cases, “I’m leaving”. I asked the children what they thought of the spiders. Not much, it turned out. Because every morning before school, and every afternoon, the children had to go out and catch flies for the wolf spiders! Each day, at least 100 of them.
A few years later we returned to Madeira, this time to house-sit the Quinta. We asked about our spider-collector (we called him “Spider-meyer”). He’d crashed his red sports car and died in flames. (Revenge of the wolf spiders?) His wife sold their home and left with the children back to France. Where we hope they’d never again have to catch flies! Bom dia!