I've yet to be convinced that spiders are harmless

Planets are round, or nearly round, due to gravity

DON’T let anyone tell me spiders are harmless. More and more people are experiencing bites and they are convinced these are from a spider. I’ve seen one woman’s legs with three big scabs; following a lot of worry that she had developed ulcers, the doctor said no but seemed mystified – now she’s sure it was an eight-legged monster.

Last year a reader sent me pictures of his daughter’s legs where she had been bitten – a terrible mess and again she says she knew for a fact it was a spider.

And there are other ways these creatures can cause trauma. I was standing in the bath about to settle down when a huge black interloper leapt out from behind the taps. I recoiled and fell over the side of the bath, splat on to the floor. Not a happy situation but thankfully no damage done – to me anyway, can’t say the same for the spider.

The stories are coming in thick and fast. A huge spider under a girl’s pillow, a man woke to find one sitting on his chest – these are all stories told to me so it isn’t hearsay. Advice is, shake out duvets, pillows, clothes, towels. Look behind taps, piles of magazine, food stores – just about everything. Look before you leap, these creatures are fearful. According to the pharmacist, if bitten take antihistamine and apply hydrocortisone cream and if there is no improvement, get to the doctor.

The moon’s a balloon

A QUESTION from a schoolboy: “Why are planets round?” Who better to ask than Terry Moseley of the Irish Astronomical Association?

“They are round (or very nearly so) because gravity pulls the material of which they are made into the smallest possible shape, which is a sphere. It's basically the same force as that which makes water run downhill to the lowest available point – the sea.

Irregularities such as mountains are in fact continually trying to subside to a lower level, but on that small small scale the rigidity of the rock is greater than the force of gravity.

“But in fact the Earth is not a perfect sphere – it bulges slightly at the equator because of the centrifugal force of its diurnal rotation: its equatorial diameter is 42km greater than its polar diameter! And Jupiter and Saturn are even more 'flattened' because they spin even faster that the Earth.

“The Earth is not quite an ellipse either. It's what's called an 'oblate spheroid'. That means that it's flattened towards the equator but the flattening actually extends slightly more to the south of the equator as well, so it's slightly pear-shaped. It's even slightly more complicated than that, but you don't really need to know all that detail!”

The merits of being online

A READER tells me that she shops on a TV shopping channel and recently bought a beautiful blouse with an Italian label for £14.99 plus postage. Then, on the same TV channel, a viewer sent in a picture of the same blouse, with the label and price still attached, that she bought in a London store for £139.

My first venture into internet shopping came this month when I sourced a vacuum cleaner reduced from £249 to £99.99. I’d been told by a friend it was a good buy and was available in the store but that was inconvenient so I ordered ‘online’. Easy as falling off a log!

It arrived four days later, nice man in a white van, no charge. Flushed with success and after months of looking, I thought I’d try for a sellotape dispenser, a nice heavy one rather than a skittery wee plastic thing. Ebay, I thought, and with great trepidation signed up for exactly what I wanted for £3.99. Delivered within a couple of days and just terrific.

Catalogue shopping is also very efficient, a great pair of shoes, lightweight, comfortable and fashionable, all sizes and choice of wide fittings for £24.95 and an elegant 100 per cent cotton kaftan, £29.95, with free delivery.

I hate to say it but It’s no wonder so many high street shops are failing. On the other hand, it would be so easy to get hooked on this way of shopping, you could make mistakes, run up a bill on your plastic card or become addicted.

The exuberance of youth

THE Ulster Youth Orchestra concert a couple of Saturdays ago was a very special night for both the audience and the orchestra, young people still at school coping with exams and rehearsals, young people who are the future musicians feeding all sorts of musical groups from philharmonic to bands and all between.

What stuck me was how professional they are – smart, polished and happy. The studious red-haired timpanist raised the roof with his aplomb as did 15-year-old Donal McCann who was master of the Mulholland Organ during the Saint-Saens Symphony.

It was also a treat for the audience, many of them family, brothers and sisters supporting their sibling musicians. One lady had primary school youngsters with her and I asked if they were studying music: “No but I want them to appreciate music as they grow up so I bring them to concerts like this.” What a great mother.

Can you help?

A MESSAGE from Caroline McEvoy, campaign officer for Parkinson’s UK, proud to be the Charity Awards 2015 Education and Training award winner and hoping to recruit a Trustee from NI.

“I was wondering if you would be able to include the attached information on your page in The Irish News. Thank you.”

It’s interesting that president of the charity Jane Asher and supporter Jeremy Paxman have both pledged to donate their brains after death to further research into this disease that effects one in 500 people in the UK.

If you are interested in becoming either a trustee or a supporter, email Caroline McEvoy at or visit the website


Today's horoscope


See a different horoscope: