As I lay on the hearthrug here at the Artful Dodger with my companion Bruce, a very fine Persian Blue, one has time to ponder many things. Take my dear friend, Lazarus, for example. He is a Tegenaria Parietina spider or ‘Cardinal’ – the species earned this distinguished moniker by scaring the noble pants off Cardinal Wolsey, regularly appearing in his bath and dressing room at Hampton Court. In the addled Archbishop’s mind, they assumed the status of mystical creatures – Wolsey instructed his staff they were never to be harmed.

My dears, you have all seen Cardinal Spiders in your homes. As wide as your hand, they will be lurking beneath your bed, or curiously winding their way up to the plughole into your bath. The Cardinal has eight angular legs attached to a reddish brown body, adorned by two pedipalps – strange glove-like organs on their heads – used for mating. They also have a rather fetching mane of hair on their tibias.

But, dear friends, arachnoids are like human beings and do something useful. They do not deserve to be harmed! For example, they are “nature’s safest insecticides” because they munch on midges, mosquitoes and pesky houseflies! If you see one motionless, it is because they are resting – they can run fast but they tire quickly.

Lazarus entertained us with a story about how he frightened Fagin – the landlord of the Artful Dodger – in his bathtub. Apparently, Lazarus had to run for his life as the old scroat spotted him, and repeatedly tied to squash him with his pink body puff, before deluging him with water, and finally squirting him with Wildebeest Aftershave.

But, dear reader, Lazarus is part of peaceful community of spiders who live in the attic at the Artful Dodger. They spin dramatic sheet webs of finest silk, and females hang their egg sacs from them with tiny strands of finest taffeta. The webs capture sunbeams and sent forth a kaleidoscope of rarest colours, and they bow and stretch in the soft breezes. Lazarus made a cats cradle especially for Bruce’s birthday – it is too delicate to touch. Oh, how I wish I could work and weave and spin and create such art.

But then, as a feline there are many other webs I can weave….

"Brilliant descriptions of characters and places enrich a twisty plot that kept me guessing right to the end. John Simes is a master story teller."James Stevenson, Author