Wednesday, 29 October 2014

A few things to do with security.

First there was talk of the UK withdrawing from the European convention on human rights. Now I read that Britain will no longer support search and rescue operations to prevent migrants and refugees drowning in the Mediterranean Sea. It seems that Foreign Office ministers have quietly announced that supporting such operations just encourages more people to attempt the crossing. 

What happened to humanity? 

It goes along with reducing benefits to "encourage" people to find work and discourage them from relying on "hand-outs". I'm quite surprised they haven't shut down food banks to make people be more self-reliant and find other ways of feeding their family. All of this at a time when UNICEF reports child poverty on the increase in the developed world. The proportion of children living in poverty in the UK has gone up from 24% in 2008 to 25.6%. In Greece it has gone from 23% to 40.5%. The USA is up to 32% and Spain 36%. What are things coming to? 

The writer Doris Lessing once imagined a future society where the rich live in walled communities while the poor marauded round the country in gangs, scavenging for food and occasionally attacking the rich enclaves. Is this what we have ahead? 

Talking of walls, I hear that bits of the Berlin Wall are spread all over the world. This is not just the keyring-sized pieces that you can buy in German airports. No, huge segments have been sent all over the place and are sometimes given to visiting foreign dignitaries. Five pieces of the Berlin Wall are in South Korea, 30 kilometres from the border with North Korea, a kind of symbol of hope that the country might one day be peacefully reunited. 

I like the tales of bits of the wall getting lost. In May 1998, they were going to present a segment of Wall to Bill Clinton during a presidential visit to Berlin. However, a previous meeting had overrun and Bill Clinton was unable to attend the presentation ceremony. So the German embassy agreed to present the bit of wall in the US. And so the chunk of brickwork was transported from Berlin to Hamburg and then shipped to Baltimore. But then along came the Monica Lewinsky scandal and the presentation never took place. The piece of wall remained in storage in Baltimore and eventually vanished. I imagine someone coming across it during a storage inventory and thinking, " This is a scruffy looking chunk of masonry. Let's throw it out!" A piece of history gone for ever! 

All of these walls and measures taken to keep people out or in or just secure gets me thinking about my running. It might be dangerous. Runners could be a security risk. On Monday a young man was out running in Leeds when he ran into David Cameron. He reckons he didn't see him but just saw a lot of men in suits and was continuing his run, weaving in and out of people, as you do if you run in an urban environment. The next thing he knew he was tackled to the ground, handcuffed, arrested and stuffed into a police van. An hour later they "de-arrested" him. That was the term used on the radio in my daughter's car where I first heard this story. She tells me this is police terminology meaning that he was released without being charged. I suppose she should know these things; her fiancé is a policeman, after all. Anyway, I think I will stick to running on bridle paths where I am unlikely to come across politicians and their security men. 

I wonder how much money is spent on these security measures. I read today that one of the tourist sights in London is Tony Blair's residence. You can recognise it because there are policemen with machine guns around it. Really? There are advantages to not being an ex-prime minister. I don't have to worry about stuff like that. Does Cherie take them cups of tea and coffee like we do around here for workmen? 

Presumably the Blair residence is also surrounded by CCTV cameras. They seem to be everywhere. Apparently police have released a CCTV image of a man who stole a double-decker bus and then went on a seven-mile joyride through the streets of south-east London. He appears to have just walked into the depot and driven out in the bus, which he drove around for a while. Then, when he had had enough he parked it a bus stop and walked away. Did he do it for a dare? Is he terminally ill and driving a bus is on his bucket list? Did he do it on impulse, simply seeing the bus there and getting in and driving it away? Or was he testing security measures at the bus depot? 

Like the mystery of Bill Clinton's bit of the Berlin Wall, this conundrum might never be solved!

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Clocks, books ... and spiders again!

Last night, in the middle of the night, the clocks went back. My phone and iPad changed automatically but there are a couple of timepieces around the house which still have us an hour ahead. We all gained an extra hour in bed. Or maybe some people just stayed up even later than usual. There is some discussion about the UK falling into line with most of Europe, timewise anyway. Would Portugal, who have the same time as we do, follow suit, I wonder. From what I see on social media, this has led some people to believe that this may be the last time that we ever change the clocks. Not so. Spain does the same tinkering with the clocks as we do. Nothing really changes. But there are specialists who maintain that it would be beneficial if we had the same time as France and Spain, because our children would have an extra hour of playing out time after school. Running around outside would no doubt be very good for them but would they do so? Would they not still want to play on their electronic gadgets? 

Now, the other day we overtook a child on her way home from school. I was going to say a small girl, but in fact she can't have been all that small as she was in secondary school uniform. What was surprising was that she was walking along reading a book, completely lost in it, moving along slowly and turning the pages as she went. Quite oblivious to the world around her. Phil and I looked at each other and murmured, in unison, "That's something you don't see very often!" 

Here's another book story. An American tourist was trapped recently in a London Waterstone's bookshop. I'm not sure what happened. Perhaps he went to the loo. Perhaps he spent too long in a secluded corner of an upper floor. Whatever it was, when he got down to the ground floor, the doors were locked and he couldn't get out. Despite his setting off the alarm as he tried in vain to open the door, the police were unable to help. His story became known when he tweeted about it: "Hi Waterstone's, I've been locked in your Trafalgar Square store for two hours now. Please let me out." 

So they let him out but by then his tweet had been re-tweted all over the place and the next morning he was interviewed on "Good Morning America" and ITV's "Good Morning". Why did he tweet? Well, he said he was bored. In a bookshop? I would have thought that so long as he could phone anyone who needed to know where he was so that they didn't worry a bookshop was as good a place as any to be trapped. He would have had plenty to read. And the big Waterstone's shops have cafes with food available so he would have been ok. With that attitude in mind, on Friday Waterstone's organised a lock-in by invitation this weekend. Nineteen people were chosen through a competition in which they had to say which book they would like to read on the night. What an excellent bit of marketing on Waterstone's part. And the participants all received a goody bag! Splendid! 

And finally, spiders again. Alice Roberts, described by Wikipedia as an English anatomist, anthropologist, TV presenter, among other things, as well as being professor of something or other at a university, was writing about spiders in today's Observer. She says they have grown large this year because the summer was, as she put it, lovely and warm. The insects they eat were bigger so the spiders also grew bigger. In the autumn they head for warm, dry places, probably to mate in. 

She wrote, "... A 21st century, dry and heated house must be irresistible. How kind of us humans to build such a thing just for them! Just so they can come inside, as the weather's getting less clement, and try to find a mate." So there it is: the expert's opinion. She is presenting a programme called Spider House on BBC4 on Wednesday. She finishes her article, however, this way: "But that house spider, that Tegebaria gigantea scuttling across the floor ... I know he means no harm and I don't wish him any harm, but I do wish he would find some old tree or little cave to live in, rather than my house." 

 Yes, I'm with her on that.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Thinking about cities.

Cities are strange places, full of life and often so difficult to live in. The more trendy a city, it seems, the more inhospitable it becomes in so many ways. One third of New Yorkers pay more than 50% of their annual income in rent. Nearly half of New York is living close to the poverty line. In 2009 the top 1% earned more than a third of the city's income. And because it is expensive to do business in New York City, factories, workshops and shipyards have gone elsewhere. It's the same old story. I have these facts from someone called John Freeman writing in today's Guardian. 

John was lucky; an inheritance allowed him to buy an apartment in Manhattan. For some time John Freeman's brother also lived in New York, but as a homeless person. He also writes about life in New York: 55,000 homeless people, including 13,000 homeless families living in New York shelters. That's 23,000 children living life at subsistence level. For various complicated reasons, John Freeman did not invite his brother to live with him. His brother says, "I did not want anyone's help when I was homeless. If a family member had offered to take me in, I probably would have declined the offer." Eventually he moved out of the city to make his life elsewhere. 

All the stuff that is said about New York could probably be said about London as well. The statistics would be different but the message would be the same: a difficult and expensive place to live, And yet I know loads of young people - former students, our son and his friends - who were drawn to the capital city after university and stayed there, declaring that it is the best place to live. And for those fortunate enough to have a decent job, I suppose it is. Mind you, many of those young people, our son included, as they reach the point in their lives when they want to have children, move out of the centre, seeking places close enough to the city to commute but economical enough to enable them to live reasonably well. And they are the lucky ones! 

Yes, cities are odd places. You can have the time of your life or you can be thoroughly miserable and lonely. And we grow attached to them and love them. I know I get quite defensive when people tell me that Manchester is an ugly place. You just need to walk round with your eyes raised a little so that you see the upper parts of the buildings that have not been made into the standard routine city centre with exactly the same shops as every other city in the country. A friend of mine was recently bemoaning the fact that in Barcelona's gothic quarter old traditional shops are being bought up by chain stores. The individual shopkeepers who ran toy shops, bookshops or whatever kind of small business it might be could no longer afford the extortionate rents and had to move to cheaper parts of the city. And so the charm of individual shops with character is replaced with the corporate image of the shops you can visit anywhere. But it's that same thing again: the city is too expensive for the small people. 

Mind you, it could be worse. Instead of moving to another part of the city, you might find your whole city having to move. Kiruna, the most northerly town in Sweden is doing just that. The city, well really a town, I suppose, is largely dependent on a huge iron-ore mine which was founded in 1900. It provides employment and has made the town rich. But now the mine is undermining the city. As the mine follows the seam of iron-ore it is going under the streets and houses and the place is in danger of disappearing into the ground. So they propose to build a new city further south and move everyone lock, stock and barrel. It's that or stop mining. Which would mean that the town would have no reason to be there. You can imagine the consternation. All your memories are tied up in the place where you grew up and these people would have to leave all that behind. 

I wonder though if they might not be better moving south. Kiruna is located 145 kilometres within the Arctic Circle. In the heart of winter they have no daylight and temperatures go down to -15 degrees and below. You wouldn't catch me living there.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Words, words, words!

The French and Spanish, I believe, both have organisations that regulate, for want of a better word, the official entry of words into their language. The French one works very hard at keeping foreign words out of the language and pushes hard to promote the use of a genuine French word in place of a foreign interloper. They are, of course, fighting a losing battle. A language is like a naughty and very independent-minded child. It will insist on going its own way and you can cajole it as much as you like but it will still continue along its wayward path. 

This does not stop me railing against the over-correction that produces abominations like "for you and I", the tendency for "wonder" to be mispronounced as "wander" (in other words both pronounced with an "on" sound) and even the intrusive "r" that appears all over the place. I can accept small children talking about "drawing" as "drawring", although I strongly believe that their parents and teachers should try to prevent it. However, I really think that pundits and news reporters on TV and radio should be aware that there is no "r" in the word "law". And yet I hear a lot of talk about something called "lore and order". It all conspires to turn me into a grumpy pedant. 

The Spanish academy accepts the inevitable use of foreign words in the language and adjusts the spelling to match Spanish spelling rules. "Leader" and "meeting" long ago became "líder" and " mitín". As far as I know they have not yet put an accent on "penalty" - it needs to be "pénalty" to give it correct English style pronunciation - and consequently every Spaniard pronounces it with the stress on the "a", making it "penAlty". Some purists still prefer the use of good Spanish expressions but, like the French academicians, they are fighting a losing battle. 

I'm not sure that we have such an institution keeping an eye on the English language. Perhaps I could form one. Maybe I could get government funding. No, on reflection, in this time of austerity and government debt and cuts in all sorts of services, I think that is highly unlikely. 

What seems to happen as regards English is that words are "accepted" into dictionaries and new words are rated "word of the year" and so on. Usually these neologisms are not so much borrowings from other languages as creative combinations of already existing words. 

This year there is "photobomb", defined by Collins as “to intrude into the background of a photograph without the subject’s knowledge”. And we could consider "overshare" which apparently means "to be unacceptably forthcoming with information about one’s personal life”. This happens a lot when people reveal unnecessary details about their lives on Facebook or give you graphic detail of their latest operation, child being born or similar occurrence that you have no need to hear about in technicolor. Apparently "overshare" is used as what is described as a "genteel put-down - there's another modernism. Somebody from Chambers' dictionary said about "overshare", "It is beautifully British. It's subtle, yet devastating; a put-down few would want laid at their door". 

I have barely adjusted to people using "hashtags" all over the place and I now discover that there is also a “bashtag”, defined as “a hashtag used for critical or abusive comments”. That may be because I am not a “digital native” – “a person who has learned to use computers as a child”. 

 Some people, I am told, also agitate for words to be removed from the English language. Well, I could probably come up with a few myself. Lake Superior State University in Michigan receives nominations through the year for "words to be banished from the Queen's English for "misuse, overuse and general uselessness". Earlier this year "selfie" was found to be the word most people felt should be removed. "A self-snapped picture need not have a name all its own beyond ‘photograph’,” complained one respondent. 

And finally, words related to "sequel". Films about events preceding well-known films, for example stories about Superman's childhood, have been described as "prequels". Now someone is suggesting that there is the possibility of William Shatner playing James T Kirk once again, resurrected somehow after dying in the last one, and now starring in a third Star Trek film, thus making a "threequel". 

I remain lost for words!

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Celebrations

Our next door neighbour tells me she is organising a Hallowe'en party for her grandchildren, of which she has quite a lot. Would we like to invite our grandchildren along? I'll pass the invitation along. I must say, I think she is very brave, foolhardy(?), perhaps crazy to want to fill her small basement flat - bedroom, bathroom, living-room cum kitchen in a space which is our house is the kitchen and dining area - with a bunch of youngsters of assorted ages all getting on a sugar high from the kind of food served at such parties. Not to mention the mud that will inevitably be walked in. 

The affair is becoming something of a community matter too. I ran into - almost literally as I was on my back from my morning jog - another neighbour the other morning. He told me he was organising a garden party and was on his way to rent one of those big tent-like shelters to put up in case of rain. A garden party? In October? He explained that it would be a combined Hallowe'en and bonfire party, Hallowe'en being the 31st of October and Bonfire Night the 5th of November. So that was it; he was joining forces with the grandmother of many grandchildren. Clearly the barbecues of the summer have led him to want to continue the community social life. 

We used to organise bonfire parties in our garden up to the point when our children decided they were too old and sophisticated for such things. Friends with children of the same age came along. My brother, always a big kid, brought his wife to celebrate her birthday - November 5th. A bonfire at the bottom of the garden, everyone brought fireworks and food and there was a pan of mulled wine on the go for most of the evening. It was all good fun. But we were younger and possibly more energetic then. Surely now our neighbour's daughters should be organising the Hallowe'en party and inviting Grandma, or Nana as I believe they call her, to go along as a guest. 

We started having bonfire parties when we moved into this house which has just enough garden space to permit such activities. I was nostalgic about the bonfire parties we used to have when I was a child, big family affairs that all the cousins came along to. The ones whose parents didn't want to spoil the lawn by setting fire to a pile of stuff on it. We enjoyed the whole process: collecting wood, building dens with the stuff that was drying around the garden before we got round to building the fire itself. And then on Bonfire Night itself, one of the culinary highlights was the potatoes that my father wrapped in foil and put in the hottest part of the fire once it had got going well. These were raked out later, perfectly baked, too hot to handle but quite delicious. And that was the kind of memory I wanted to give to our children. It seems to have worked as we have had occasional requests to resurrect the tradition. Too late! The moment has passed! And besides, the bit of shared garden where the bonfire used to be lit has now been fenced off. Things change. 

However, a Hallowe'en party, with a bonfire and fireworks thrown in, seems to be on the cards. Maybe I will resurrect my mother's treacle toffee recipe as my contribution to the fun and games. You have to show willing, after all. And Mum's treacle toffee recipe works well. All good stuff. 

But then this morning in the craft shop in the village I spotted a sign advertising Hallowe'en cards. Hallowe'en cards!? Who do you send them to? People you want to scare? And the shops are full of Hallowe'en displays. Fine! But they almost all wish us "Happy Hallowe'en!" Since when do we go round wishing everyone "Happy Hallowe'en"? 

"Happy Christmas" is fine and I send loads of cards with the best will in the world. "Happy Birthday", yes, that's perfectly good. I'd wish any American friends "Happy Thanksgiving", if I had any American friends living nearby. We don't go in for "Happy Anniversary" much in our house; when you've been together as long as we have you stop celebrating the fact that you're still together. I've come to accept "Happy Easter" as a greeting you give to people even if neither you nor they are practising Christians any longer, although I draw the line at sending cards to all and sundry. The cynic in me believes that Easter cards, along with Father's Day cards, congratulations on moving house / passing your exams / passing your driving test cards are an invention of the card industry who just want our money. 

I'm rather surprised no-one has come up with a "congratulations on conceiving your baby" card. After all, you now have "baby showers" where the parents to be receive gifts before the child is born. So what do you do after the baby is born? Give another gift? Or just a card and a bunch of balloons? (Although it may be that the baby shower is meant to provide larger items of baby necessities. My taxi driver yesterday was telling me that his wife wants to spend £1400 on a pram for their as yet unborn baby!) 

I have a sneaking suspicion that baby showers are an American import, like "trick or treat". Now I know "trick or treat" has been around for a good while now. Some twenty years ago, possibly more, there was knock on our door on Hallowe'en. A small group of local kids, led by a huge 15 year old girl, chanted "trick or treat". I was tired after a long day at work and looked at the 15 year old and told her she was old enough to know better. And then I shut the door. Next morning I had to scrub rude words off my front door. But back when I was a child, that "tradition" didn't exist. On November 4th we had Mischief Night, when youngsters went round playing tricks all over the neighbourhood: knocking on the door and running away; setting off "bangers" or "rip-raps" under people's windows; if you were really bad, posting "bangers" through people's letter boxes or lighting someone else's bonfire a day early. 

Mostly it was pretty harmless stuff- well apart from posting fireworks through letter boxes - and none of it involved asking for stuff. Children went round with their "guy" on a trolley in the few weeks before Bonfire Night, asking for a "penny for the guy". The most organised went from house to house singing, " We come a cob-calling for Bonfire Night". My siblings and I were not allowed to do any of this stuff. My mother said it was tantamount to begging and no child of hers was going to be seen begging in the street. Far too "common" an activity. So that was that! 

Nowadays "bangers", silly little fireworks that just give a loud bang are banned. Mind you, the Spanish still seem able to get hold of them to throw around during fiestas. "Rip-raps", a series of five or six "bangers" tied together and going off in a series of bangs, leaping around unpredictably to frighten everyone, are similarly banned. And small boys ( for it was mostly boys who bought the "bangers" and "rip-raps") can no longer buy fireworks of any kind. The world is a safer but for small boys probably a less exciting place. 

And, in fear of what might happen to their children out and about knocking on neighbour's doors, parents accompany their small children as they go "trick or treating", usually dressed in expensively bought costumes that prettify terror. The world may not be such a safe place after all and the only danger parents will subject their children to is the sugar rush and tooth decay! 

Happy celebration season everyone!

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Serious discussion on the tram.

Yesterday I braved the weather and went into Manchester for my Italian conversation class. I am glad that we only caught the tail end of Hurricane Gonzalo. If that was the tail end, I dread to think what it must have been like earlier. At one point I stood under the shelter at the tram station in Oldham when it started to rain. The wind blew the rain so that it was horizontal. We were under the shelter but still getting wet and cold. 

As people complained of the cold, one man commented that in his country this would not be considered cold. There they had snow on the hills and mountains all the time so this bit of rain and wind was nothing. From his dress he was clearly Muslim and I wondered where he was from. And so, being a friendly sociable person (aka a nosy Parker) I asked him. Afghanistan, he revealed. At that point the tram arrived and we all got on after, unusually, being asked to show our tickets and passes. I sat down and, to my surprise, the man from Afghanistan came and sat next to me, even though there was plenty of room in the tram. 

And so began a conversation that went on all the way to Shudehill in Manchester, where I alighted. I learned that he had been in England for three years and that when he arrived he spoke no English at all. He had not been to classes but had picked up English from listening and talking to people. Maybe he makes a habit of talking to tram passengers. He said he had not learnt to read and write English. I tried, unsuccessfully, to find out what he is doing in England, although I got the impression that he had come initially for medical treatment. He showed me the scars on his leg and told me that he had been injured in both legs and had been unable to walk at all for a long time. Even now he still walked with a crutch. 

I was told at length how wrong the fighting and foreign intervention in Afghanistan is. His argument went along the lines that in England ("your country" was how he described it) people can be prosecuted for hitting children and yet it is considered all right to send soldiers from the UK, from the USA, from France, to kill families and children in his country. What happens, he told me, is that people gather to go to market, to do their shopping, to get on with the business of life and this is seen as an illegal gathering and bombs are dropped. He had lost his father and all his siblings that way. It's a powerful argument. 

What I found less palatable was when he started to talk to me about religion. Assuming that I am a Christian (well, I had already assumed he was a Muslim) he informed me that we are mistaken to call Jesus the son of God. God does not have sons. God is simply there. Jesus, a prophet, was the son of Mary, or Miriam as he called her. And like the prophet Mohammed, he is in fact not dead but has been taken up to Heaven. And then there is the Bible, which apparently is different in Birmingham, London, Oldham or wherever people live. I had to protest at this but he corrected me, assuring me that people re-write the Bible to suit their own lives. Interpretation? Is that what he meant? 

The Koran on the other hand, he told me, is pure and unique. There is only the one. He was not impressed by people who read the Koran in English translation and say they are converted to Islam either. Maybe that is the problem: his belief that the Koran should be accepted without understanding or study. It was all becoming very confusing, and his English was really not up to the argument he seemed to want to have. Besides he appeared to be a nice chap, if a little fanatical, and I really wasn't in the mood for an in depth discussion. 

So I was quite glad when Shudehill tram stop the turned up and I was able to get off, without revealing to him that his assumption of my belief in Jesus as the son of God was mistaken. He was so passionate about the whole thing that I didn't want to disillusion him. 

One of my companions in the Italian class told me I had clearly come across a fanatic, possibly dangerous. But, of course, my travelling companion may just have wanted to practise his English. It'll teach me to keep my mouth shut when I'm waiting for the tram.

Monday, 20 October 2014

The Spider Post.

On Saturday evening I caught a huge spider at my daughter's house. I had to catch it. The two youngest grandchildren refused to go upstairs to bed if they had to step over the spider, even though it was tucked into a corner of one of the stairs. So I had to get a glass, pop it over the spider and wait for someone to bring me a card to slide under the glass, thus trapping the spider. This is the time-honoured and generally humane method of catching spiders in our family. The aforementioned spider, as might be expected, woke up and kind of reared against the side of the glass, revealing how big he or she really was. So I took it outside and deposited it at the bottom of the garden. 
 
Several hours later, when I arrived home, I went down to the kitchen to make a cup of tea. There on the floor, large as life and twice as nonchalant, was another huge spider. So, employing the same method as before, I caught this spider as well and took it off to the bottom of the garden. I have been known on occasion to carry them down the road a way, trying to take them as far from the house as possible in a vain attempt to confuse them and prevent them returning. Does it work? No idea. 

A fair number of Facebook friends have been posting photos of similar arachnids. My daughter even had one use her arm as a kind of bridge, dropping down from her ceiling, walking down her arm, on his way to who knows where, when she spotted him and brushed him off in horror. She then took a photo of him on the floor by her bed. 

I was discussing this spider problem with a friend recently. We both agreed that we do not remember such huge spiders back in the 20th century. In our opinion they are a 21st century phenomenon. Scientists on the TV try to persuade us that they have always been around but I remain unconvinced. I remember invasions of harvest spiders, with their small, round bodies and looooong legs. But these ugly creatures with what look like pincers at the front of their bodies are a recent development as far as I am concerned. I have been known to theorise that they have come into the country in boxes of fruit from warmer climes and, because our winters have been milder, with the occasional exception, in the last decade or so, they have survived and adapted to a British lifestyle. Not beyond the bounds of possibility. 

And then this morning I read the story of a family in South London who had a food delivery from Waitrose. In their order was a bunch of bananas. As the father of the family put them in the fruit bowl he realised that there was a huge spider nestling In the bunch of bananas. Initially trapped by a leg under the bunch of bananas, the spider disappeared from sight. The householder phoned the RSPCA who said they did not deal with such things and suggested he dial 999. The police would have nothing to do with such a venomous creature. For by now they had discovered that it was a Brazilian Wandering Spider, one of the most poisonous in existence. Great! 

Eventually Waitrose sent a pest expert, Steve Trippett, who described the spider as “hardcore”. In amongst the bananas there was also an egg sac containing hundreds of spider eggs. Mr Trippett put the eggs in a freezer to kill them and, armed with a 3ft stick, found the spider hiding in the fruit bowl. The spider became aggressive standing on its back legs and showing its fangs, this despite having ripped at least one of its legs off trying to escape. But using his stick, Mr Trippett manoeuvred the creature into a heavy plastic box, which was placed inside two other boxes. Apparently the spider was taken later to a scientific centre abroad. So you see, big spiders do come in from abroad! This was a Wandering Spider who wandered a long way. 

The family was described as being traumatised by the whole experience. Well, yes, I can understand that. A bite from a spider of this kind can cause paralysis and even death so they were right to be scared. However, one thing that strikes me is that they were not so traumatised that they couldn't take a photo of the spider. Now, when I see a huge spider, my first instinct is to get a large glass to trap the thing, not find my phone to take a picture. I might take one later once the creature is safely under glass. Mind you, my phone is usually in my handbag in some other part of the house, not in my pocket or right next to me wherever I am. (Yes, I take a lot of photos, usually when I am out and about. Yes, I also post a lot of pictures to Facebook. But my first reaction to an emergency is not to take a picture of it.) Maybe the people who take pictures first do so before they go to find something to trap the spider in. 

Anyway, it seems to me that the moral of the story is to buy your bananas in person at the supermarket, not have them delivered to your house. That way you can at least take a look to see if there is an illegal immigrant on board.