Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water...
The sea. A beautiful, moving and powerful thing. A perfect analogy of time; sometimes it moves calm and slow, others it’s fast, dangerous and unrelenting. The one thing it never does is stop, no matter how much you want it to. I love the sight, smell and sound of it. I could stare at it for hours. What I don’t like is what’s lurking in it; Sharks.
I’m terrified of the prehistoric death machines. They’re all teeth and rage. They scare me stupid. I’ve so far never been in any danger of getting eaten by a shark but that’s because I never put myself even close to that happening. I never go deeper than the knees when at the seaside, it’s just common sense. I mean why would anyone want to risk the possibility of having a limb munched off? Stupid humans, thinking that because we’re at the top of the food chain we’re immune to the perils mere fish are in danger of. Now you might be thinking “You live in Britain you idiot, the closest encounter with a shark will be a basking shark and they’re filter feeders so will be more likely to gum you than eat you”. Well did you know this; there are large sharks, probably Whaler and Great Whites (the man-eating kind!) in the Bay of Biscay on the east coast of France. FRANCE! Only 250 miles from Cornwall! THAT’S TOO FUCKING CLOSE! There are loads of species of sharks in the Med, a holiday hot spot, and they’re big ones too! I’m terrified of them ripping me to pieces, chewing on my limbs, toying with me like a killer whale teasing a baby seal. Some people think sharks have had a bad rap, well what do you expect when in one species of shark, baby sharks have to fight it out in the womb and the strongest is the one which eats all the others! Or developing embryos feed on a steady supply of tiny, unfertilized eggs. Both are types of intrauterine CANNIBALISM. The winner is already a murderer and cannibal before it even takes its first watery breathe! They’re born killers pure and simple. Just watch Jaws and that’ll show you all you need to know about those grotesque, vengeful monsters of the deep.
I think my fear started when I was a kid and we stayed in a hotel that had a dolphin painted on the bottom of the swimming pool. It didn’t look too much like a dolphin when you were going down the slide at speed, it looked like the large lurking mass of a shark. I remember zipping down the slide a seeing the dark shape laying in wait, my heart stopped! I can still see it now, watching and waiting for the 11 year old me to shoot down the slide into its waiting jaws…it haunts me still.
I think this fear is very sensible. But I’ve only told you the first, and quite normal, part of my fear. The other part you might not agree with; I don’t like fish. Or any swimming thing really. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy going to the Sea-life Centre as much as the next person, I don’t mind seeing the underwater freak show that goes on just yards from the overcrowded swimming arena off the public beaches. Know your enemy and all that. There just seems to be far too many things in the vast depths of the ocean that are just giant mouths with too many teeth and have too much time on their hands to perfect their “menacing” look. I’m happy to eat them, cook them, touch the dead ones, I just don’t like the living, swimmy ones that might touch me without my consent, the idea of it makes me squirm. That’s the other reason I only go up to the knees, the likelihood of fish being that close to shore when there are loads of splashing, shouting people about is quite slim. It could be because the seas and beaches I’m used to have light sand so it gets tossed about making the water murky and visibility low. So if there are fish about I won’t be able to see them and avoid them. When seaweed gets washed about my ankles I’ll shriek like a little girl thinking it’s a bloody jelly fish intent on stinging every inch of exposed leg, because I can’t see a damned thing! I can’t imagine I’d enjoyed diving that much, even though it looks like something people enjoy. Especially in areas where the sand is heavy so the visibility is perfect and I could see everything that’s moving. But with great visibility comes great vulnerability; if I can see them, they can definitely see me!
So there, another great and real fear I have. An extension of that is being in a plane crash over the ocean and being circled by Tiger sharks as the ruined fuselage slowly sinks into the rolling waves….
There aren’t enough words to express the deep, aching sadness that comes with the memories of that fateful day in 2001 when 2977 people lost their lives in the air attacks in America. I didn’t personally know any of those that lost their lives yet I still feel the grief as keenly as the loss of a loved one and it’s still as raw today as it was then.
I remember exactly where I was when the news broke. I was alone in my temporary student house in Hyde Park, I’d just watched Neighbours, eating my lunch and waiting for the news headlines before setting out to town. Then the news came. It was of the first plane hitting the North Tower in what was thought, at the time, as an unexplainable accident. The studio then cut to live footage of the New York correspondent at the scene, who was trying to speak to people and find out what they thought, or knew, had happened. That’s when the 2nd plane hit the South Tower, live on air. If ever there was a time to believe in collective consciousness, it was right then. At that second, it was like the world suddenly came to the same realisation that this was no accident and that hundreds, if not thousands of people were going to die and we all knew what every other person was feeling; it was grief and horror and sorrow, it was huge and painful and dark. I felt sick and couldn’t breathe. I sat in the same spot, motionless except for tears, for hours as the news of the other planes came in. It changed me. I can’t hear a low flying plane without wondering if this is going to be the one that ploughs into our city. It made me suspicious of everyone, especially at airports, train stations and on buses. But most of all, it made me afraid.
I still hurts, every time I see the footage, like a kick to the stomach. And what was it for? What did it achieve? Thousands of innocent people killed and the lives of thousands more ruined. That wasn’t war, that was cowardice. And what followed is best left unsaid.
We must remember those who lost their lives. We must pay tribute to the heroes who fought to help the stricken. We must honour the dead.
I’m scared of quite a lot of things. Some of my phobias garner a mild response whereas others throw me into a fit of abject terror, namely; spiders. Sometimes just the mere thought of spiders can send the hairs on the back of my neck a-quivering, so seeing pictures or film/TV footage make me recoil and often render me incapable of continuing reading or watching until the offending specimens are no longer in sight. Take for instance the Assassin Spider. On reading a Cracked article entitled “15 Animals You Won’t Believe Aren’t Photoshopped” I discovered that at number 1 was a spider that sent me into instant cold sweats and was probably dreamed up by Clive Barker and H P Lovecraft after a night on Absinthe and time travel. I looked at it once and couldn’t look at it again; I had to look around it to finish the article. Even now it’s making my skin crawl. It’s possibly one of the most terrifying things I have ever seen and I never want to see again; and certainly not in real life!
So anyway, spiders are shit. I hate them with a real passion. For as long I can remember I have been afraid of them. At my parents house in my old bedroom there’s a rather large dent in the wall where I had a fight with a daddy long-legs with a sledge hammer…I won that round. However, my worst experience with a spider was a few years ago, I have flashbacks to this day, it’s my ‘Nam…
I’d just enjoyed a relaxing bath and was ready to get out when I saw it, a gargantuan spider just clinging to the wall, staring at me. My usual response is to squeal and run away; I managed the first part but not the second, I was still in the bath. So I shouted for my much braver husband to rescue me…no answer. I shouted again, still no answer. By this point I could’ve exited the bath and run away right? Wrong. Each time I made a move to get out, it moved too. It was stalking me and I was paralysed with fear. I kept shouting for Adam but I soon realised there was just me and the spider in the house. That’s when I started to panic and, rather embarrassingly, I started to cry. Eventually (10 - 15 minutes) the spider disappeared behind the toilet so I was able to scramble out of the bath, and now freezing water, as fast as I could and flee to the safety of the bedroom. Then my husband miraculously reappeared (after being outside chatting to the neighbours so didn’t hear me shouting, apparently), to find me shivering, silently weeping and rocking gently. He went and slew the beast for me, but I made him feel suitably guilty for abandoning me in my time of need.
That’s major phobia number 1. As I said, I have many. I also have minor phobias too. Some of my phobias are rational, others not so much. I’ll lay them all out sometime, but not now as it’ll be just one big bag of crazy. So until next time…