Back then, no websites, Facebook
photographs or Trustpilot reviews–
you had to select your cottage
from brochures listing properties
and showing thumbprint images.
Set next to woodland, our cottage
matched the brochure’s photograph.
Not so the contents: the description
of the accommodation and facilities
didn’t mention the rickety furniture,
chipped crockery and old-fashioned sink–
and cleaning had not removed, high
above the stairwell, seven huge spiders
and five red admirals clinging to the wall.
But there were sunny skies all week:
most days we could leave the house
and drive to the beach for the kids
to build sandcastles, scan rockpools
for anemones, tiddlers and crabs,
and paddle in the shallow, gentle sea.
They cried when we headed home,
but we were relieved to leave a house
whose unkemptness suggested
the chance of breakages more dramatic
than the tap handle we epoxy’d back,
restoring hot water to the sink.
The spiders and butterflies stayed on,
exactly as they were when we arrived.
Why had they stayed so still? Coexistence
seemed to us as unlikely as a cleaner
whisking a duster on a long pole.
Explanation came later. The butterflies
had begun an early autumn sleep:
the spiders were mere exoskeletons
shed but not swept away, consistent
with a cottage used as a money-spinner
but afforded the minimum of care.