A friend of mine once owned a small fruit shop back home in Glasgow. It was a local shop, for local people and didn't turn over much business. I don't know if that was the reason he gave it up or if this little story had more to do with it.

They used to receive bananas by the crate from their distributor. The theory was that the distribution company would check all produce before it left their gates, ensuring good quality and best prices. The theory, as my friend discovered, was little more than marketing, for if they had checked each crate so well he would not have had to suffer what he did.

He opened a crate of bananas one morning, to get it ready for display and started sorting through them to make sure that the best ones were on top, to attract the customers in. As he sorted, eyes a little bleary from the beer the night before, he spotted what he thought at first was a pipe cleaner amongst the fruit. He pulled at the pipe cleaner, planning to throw it away, but retracted his hand quickly as the pipe cleaner moved a little under his fingers. A bit surprised and a bit wary he went behind the counter and retrieved his gloves, which he should have been wearing for such purposes anyway, and moved the bunch that covered the end of the 'pipe cleaner'.

He got the fright of his life. There, amongst the yellow and green background of bananas, lay the black and red furry body of an enormous spider. He was shocked. In Scotland we never see insects larger than the size of your thumb and yet, there, in amongst the fruit, lay a spider as large as his hand.

It didn't move, but it looked intact, still, waiting perhaps.

He called out to his wife in the back shop - 'Christ, a spider, a spider in amongst the bananas, come and see this thing'.

She came through, not at all excited, perhaps expecting a garden spider and ready to berate her husband for his poor humour. She took a look in the crate and screamed, then ran from the room.

Your man sat and watched the thing for a while, wondering what to do, whether to kill it or not. It didn't move. Minutes went by. As he stood there he got a little angry at the distribution company for sending a crate with such a monstrous creature in it. He decided to call them and went to the phone behind the counter, all the time keeping one eye on the crate in case the thing might make a dash for it.

The distribution company rep he talked to on the phone seemed almost bored as he described the situation and immediately gave him a phone number of a local authority to call, barely even apologising for the incident. He called the number given and was passed from one person to the next, each department denying any responsibility for such things, until eventually someone gave him another number, this time for a local natural biology department at Glasgow University.

On calling the department he spoke to a rather nice man who seemed almost amused by the situation, but interested.

'Send it out to us' he said

'How, exactly, do I do that?' asked your man.

'Just pop it in the post, make sure you're wearing gloves when you pick it up, though the poor wee things probably so cold it can't move. We'll take a look at it and get back to you. We need to track these incidents as a matter of record'

Your man was a little amazed at this idea. Send it through the post. But he took the details of the address and, a little wary, picked the spider up and popped it in the post, with a covering letter. It took almost a week until he received a phone call, from the same man whom he had spoken to originally.

'That spider you sent us, the one in the banana crate, we had a look at it'

'Yes, and? What did you think?'

'Well, it's kind of hard to say, we think we know what it is but we're not that sure. One thing that bothers me, next time this happens, a piece of advice.'

'Yes, what?'

'If you have to send a spider in the post, use a box, not an envelope. The damn thing was flat by the time it got here.'

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