James often posts about climate change and, back in Cardiff, I had definite proof that it was happening - with a little help from the Cardiff Bay people, admittedly. Few Cardiffians would argue that the development of the Cardiff Bay area has not been a good thing: this area, once the world's foremost coal port, became, with the end of the "golden age" of coal, a run-down, seedy district where you could not walk safely at night. Now people pay up to half a million sterling for an apartment there in which there is not room to swing a cat, there are all sorts of restaurants, people go along there for a stroll at any time of day or night and most Cardiffians are rather proud of it all. My little house was not in the Bay area, but a stone's throw from it and, a few years ago, strange things started to happen: rowan trees started to die in the area, my garden became overrun by frogs [which didn't amuse my dog at all!] midges known as chironomids arrived and - the last straw for me - the ACROBATIC ARACHNIDS took up residence. Here is a copy of a letter I sent to the Cardiff Harbour Authority about three years ago:
Dear Ms N....,
I have just put my wheelie-bin and bags out, a task that has left me virtually hysterical as I have had to battle with a broom past several of the large spiders that have spun hammock-like webs across my garden.
These are no ordinary spiders - I swear they can fly - and they use their webs to loop the loop and then dive-bomb you from the tops of them.
They are resistant to the insect spray that Mr. A.... let me have and their webs are stronger than my clothes-line, speaking of which, I no longer put my washing out, as the spiders think my sheets are trapezes and swing on and from them.
It is no good telling me that spiders won't hurt me or that they will control the wretched chironomids: nothing will convince me of a lack of evil intent on the part of the former and I am just plain scared of them.
Presumably they have been attracted to the area because of the midges? Or have they been introduced into the area as part of the Harbour Authority's attempts to "naturally control" the chironomids? Are they going to metamorphose into tarantulas? The environment has changed so much in this area that nothing would surprise me! [Anyway, they are already tarantulas in my mind!]
I am a city woman who has no desire to commune with nature; I especially do not wish to commune with the arachnidan population; if I did, I would have bought a house in remotest Africa, not urban Grangetown! So please, what can be done about this gothic nightmare and how can I regain the peace of what was always meant to be a city garden?
I copied this email to my Welsh Assembly Member, MP and a local councillor and it got me lots of action in terms of empathy and visits from the Harbour Authority. I think I was supposed to be comforted by the fact that the area had now been declared an "urban wetland"; the problem was that I would never have chosen to live in one!