This unpleasant sight is what lay underneath just one of the ceiling lights that our electrician removed this morning - some of the others are even worse: a nest of crispy-looking wiring, singed bits of plaster, the occasional bit of squirrel-chewing, and other manifestations that make me very glad that the house hasn't burned down, and very puzzled that it ever passed a home inspection. Moral: get electricity inspector to have a close look at a house before buying it. This will end up costing a very good deal more money than I'd bargained for, but in my fire-phobic way (images and experiences like yesterday's are a good example of my life-long futile attempts to exorcize these fears) I will be very happy when it's done.
There's also something sinisterly spider-like about this. I've been disturbed by the idea that ordinary, domestic spiders in the US sometimes bite, apparently - that is, I knew that true nasty things like Black Widows had a venemous nip, but it took me a while to own up to the fact that other arachnids might also be troublesome. Tim, my cousin, explained this one: in the UK, all spiders weave webs (memories of my father waving a fat fly into a particularly enmeshed corner of his garage, saying "go on, go on - over there - go and be William's dinner...") and get their prey that way: in the US, and elsewhere, it's the non-web weaving spiders that have other means of bringing down their meals. This is such a good explanation that I refuse to check it.