I am, as has been documented, a big fat wimp. I’m scared of many things, from the reasonable (murderers), to the slightly neurotic (two-stroke engines) to the unhinged (everybody’s going to diiieeeee!).
Scary films/books/TV programmes also give me the willies. But I stand by my fear of such things, and defend it. They’re designed to be frightening, I am merely responing the stimulus in a normal manner. It is like when my brother (or my boyfriend), winds me up deliberately and then is surprised when I get wound up. WELL THAT SURELY WAS THE POINT?
Holidays are particularly treacherous times for me, riddled as they are with the objects of my phobias- see two-stroke engines, above: the mopeds, make them stop! When we arrived in Kefalonia last week- yes, this again, sorry- the man who owns the villa met us at the airport. He was telling us about the record hot summer they’d had, which was pleasing (though, you know, I am a bit scared of dying of dehydration). “The only problem”, he said, “is the wasps. We are plagued with them this summer”. At which point I laughed nervously, then stared at him ferociously and demanded to know what exactly he meant by “plagued”, does it have a different meaning in the South African dialect, because if I hurry I can catch the next flight back to Manchester.
Oh wasps. They must be my longest-standing fear, in fact I’m sure we should have a significant scariversary coming up soon, as I’ve been frightened of them for as long as I can remember. I mean, nobody likes wasps (surely?), but most people can bat them away in an almost, it seems to me, jolly fashion.
There were so many wasps about on our holiday that I sometimes ate my lunch, sweltering, in the kitchen with the door closed. This was partly to save my nerves, and partly because my family understandably felt like sedating me, maybe with a rounders bat, to prevent me from leaping from my chair and embarking on a sort of screaming, arm-flapping Wacky Races around the garden whenever a wasp came near. The wasps thought this was a great game and would give chase with gusto.
As soon as the wasps went to bed at night, the hornets came out, and they were like something out of a nightmare. They were bigger than cars. But I soon learned that they were only interested in lights rather than eating adult female humans. I still jumped up from the table and ran whenever one approached, heralded by a deep throaty buzz like a taxi’s engine. But I didn’t live in the constant, quivering fear that the wasps provoked. The problem with wasps is that they are all up in your grill, checking you out and finding new and exciting places to crawl into (birkenstocks, skirts, nostrils..) and sting you. They didn’t actually sting me, mind you, but I maintain that this was because I was constantly on guard for their sneaky ways.
I’m proud to report that I did face one of my fears whilst on holiday. At the villa there was staffordshire bull terrier. Dogs are not my strong point, especially ones with the words “bull” and “terrier” in the name of their breed. Having already spent a week with this particular canine in 2006, I should have known that she was a snuffling, wriggling, tail-waggling bundle of babylike joy, rather than any sort of girl-eating beast. But it still took me til the end of this second holiday at the villa to achieve the following, and let me tell you, this is a never-before-seen event, with this or any dog:
In contrast to this moment of triumph, my lowest fear-related moment came when I was lying at the edge of the plunge pool. A wasp flew up to me, all “bzzzz bzzz here I am, I’m going to sting you, mm, let me come and land on your toes, no wait, your face”, and instead of ignoring the wasp, or batting it away coolly, I rolled off the edge of the pool into the water like a TV cop dodging a bullet. In doing so, I managed to land upside down in the pool, thus inhaling a nostril full of chlorinated water, and also whack my shin on the side, and as a result, now have a purple bruise the size of a CD.
I’ve always liked to think that my propensity for fear is a consequence of having a large, imaginative mind. However, if the above example of boofusity is anything to go by, it would appear that I have very little brain at all.