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» Phobias

And another one...
Some people here seem to have a major spider problem. They're not my biggie (see below) but I can't claim to be exactly spider-neutral. There's a story behind this one..

Wiggly 'back in time lines'

I'm 7. It's high summer and I'm on my Auntie's farm, playing with my cousins. The sun is hot, the barn is cool. We are climbing the big stacks plastic sacks of animal feed pellet that reach nearly to the rafters. A perfect game, an idyllic scene.

Chasing me, giggling, to the top of this landscape of smooth plastic steps, my cousins were astonished to find I had seemingly vanished on reaching the summit. My lithe 7 year old frame had posted itself down a 2 foot square gap in the centre of the pile, a consequence of the way pallets were stacked by fork-lift, and I'd slid about 20 feet to the bottom of the shaft.

I was ok. Arms and bare legs scratched because of my little shorts and t-shirt combo, by the gap was so tight that my descent, though surprising, was not so rapid. After much laughter and reassurance, the older girls ran to get Uncle Gerard and a length of rope.

Alone in the tight dim space, my scratches are becoming increasingly tickly. Then my eyes adjust. I'm coated with house spiders. You saw that coming, didn't you?

They were in my long thick Irish curls. They were in my t-shirt. They were creeping up my shorts. Bare-foot I was stood in an sea of the bastards that had been pushed down by my fall. They were still absailing down into by upturned face, my ears, my nostrils, sticking to my tears. I kept my moth clamped shut. You know that dry crackling sound when you rip spiders web? Every movement I made.

I was alone and unable to move down there for the longest 10 minutes of my life. I don't remember my rescue, I must have blocked it out. There are photos of me being hosed down by my Auntie to remove them. None of my family laughs when the incident is recalled. It wasn't funny. Everyone was sicked with horror by me, haunted, wide-eyed and shaking, as adults, equally terrified of the things, tried to fight their fear of my thousand creeping, sticking passengers. No-one ran to hug the spider-child.

Apparently I did not open my mouth, not even to eat or drink, for almost two days. I did not speak for a week, catatonic, but screamed in my sleep. no-one played in the barn again, not even the boys.

I got over it, and maintain just a healthy mistrust of spiders. I don't like the hunch of their legs. But if I get a web stuck over my face....
(Fri 11th Apr 2008, 12:26, More)

» When Animals Attack

Greyhound flesh stripper
Oooh I love telling people this one.

I didn't see it coming up behind me, but it must have been running full tilt when it jumped me, punch of paws on one shoulder, claws into the back of my neck on the other side.

We had been waiting for a club to open, enjoying the August evening, the year I left school.

Now I was sprawled brokenly on the pavement with a stinking, sweat-streaked greyhound astride my chest, snapping at my face and tearing through my clothes.

Wee Johnny bottled it. Crunch. Right between the eyes.

In the ambulance I kept shouting about my face, my left eye was an impossible boiling ant-hill of pain and I thought the dog had torn my cheek away.

One of it's paws had cracked the orbit of my eye. Heavy dog. But my scraped and swollen face was not what prompted the hospital porter to grey, sway, and leave the room. I looked across the trolley-bed to where my hand should have been. The dog had lopped off my thumb.

Not neatly, not the punctuated shock of an absent digit, the bite had laid my palm open and pulled my thumb bones out like an anatomist's frog.

The metacarpal bone protruded from a stripped and splintered mess of flesh and pulpy, ruined muscle. They can't stitch a wound like that. It looked like a chicken thigh, pulled apart and positively marinated in claret.

Doctors don't like to amputate a thumb. Thumbless people have all sorts of difficulty. Thumbs fascilitate such varied tasks as typing, playing with an etch-a-sketch, and peeling an orange independently. I begged them not to amputate.

And that's how I ended up with the recognisable pieces of my thumb bound in sterile gauze, and sternly warned that if it started to rot, it had to come off.

I cleaned it, dressed it, wept over it, swore at it, cleaned it again aand after several weeks I was able to start physio. Rehabilitation for moveing and stretching. My favourite exercise was one I re-named the 'Pick it, flick-it, stick-it' manoeuvre.

It didn't fester, and have a truly Frankenstein-esque scar where the flesh knit naturally. Never got the feeling back though. Numb as a thumb.

Next time you walk past the bookie's window and see a glorious photo-finish poster of slavering, razor-jawed psyco-hounds closing in on the hare; think of my poor bloody thumb... and look behind you.

Length? It could have ended up just a little bit shorter.
(Tue 29th Apr 2008, 20:06, More)

» My most treasured possession

My first fire drill
Sincere congratulations to those who manage to make their posts

a)interesting for other people.

The odds seem stacked against it this week. Again.

I had the opportunity to demonstrate what I would save from a fire in my second week of primary school.
As a five year old, I, naturally, inhabited a blessedly safe and restricted universe. It was, however, the age at which incipient self-awareness first hints that a house-fire would bear small relation to the adventures of Fireman Sam.

It could kill your Mummy and Daddy.

And burn all your toys. Apocalypse.

For our first term at school we were permitted to bring one toy on fridays, for playtime. I habitually brought a white plush pussycat with dangly feet, given to me by my Gran.

With hindsight, I must have failed to take on board some of the more important details patiently explained by Mrs Twaddelle (really) relating to our upcoming first fire-DRILL. The alarm in that school sounded with an monotone


It made your eyeballs buzz very slightly. It was quite the most frightening noise I'd ever heard. I had never experienced anything so LOUD, so perfectly calculated to make your deepest monkey-brain flap loose in a senseless maelstrom of panic. My palms are sweating now when I think about it.

It went off as we were lining up to be walked, crocodile fashion, to morning assembly. Dumbfounded with terror, I snatched my fluffy cat off the toys and lunch-box table as were were hurried out. She would not burn.

No one noticed me clutching her until we were all lined up for a head-count on the playing field. The older girls tittered. Mrs Twaddelle's face thundered.

We were not returned to our classrooms but marched straight in to have assembly when the drill was completed. I was sternly pulled aside and throughly berated for flaunting the FIRST RULE OF SCHOOL FIRE DRILL:


Having brought shame on myself, my teacher and my class I was required to stand at the front of the hall, with the cat held in front of me. Primary one sat cross-legged in the first row. I had to stand and *turn around* to face the 300 little girls who were delighting in my first public humiliation*, my back to the teaches on the dais, while I sobbed uncontrollably.

School Motto: The Gateway to Knowledge is Humility.
I never forgot this.

I didn't expect this QOTW to be cathartic. Thank you for reading.

Afraid I can't even give you a 'boom-boom-chh' ending to this tale of infant woes. When I started a real fire in my student kitchen (microwave fish-cakes, don't bother) I couldn't get out at all, never mind bring anything with me. It seems we all underestimate the power of smoke to disorder and disorientate us. When my friend opened the door to the hall and rescued me I thought: Golly, I'm never going to neglect the smoke detector. I was lost in a 7 foot square room. True.

*Post scriptum: Actually not my *first* public humiliation, now that I think about it. Until that's the Question, I'm not telling.
(Thu 8th May 2008, 22:32, More)

» Phobias

Pantomime Animals
Have you stopped laughing now? Good.

The sight of a human masquerading as a misshapen, lumpy, ill-proportioned animal leaves me soaked in cold, panicky sweat; reeling with gut-wobbling horror.

No idea how this started; but sometimes when (at a street carnival for example) I see a mother patiently dragging her bawling, struggling infant closer to a 'happy tiger/rabbit/whatever' I think: Ah-ha.
Lady, can you not see this apparition through the eyes of your child? It's a fucking monstrosity.

No, I never pestered my parents to take me to Disney Land. Micky Mouse? Frankenstein's fucking lab-rat.

As an adult I have dropped all my shopping and nearly broken my nose running into a display window in Debenham's. What was I running from? The Tweenies.

I's the empty, moronic grin in their eye-holes. The fact that you can't tell if they are staring at you. The knowledge that in their role as *bringer of crazy-wacky-fun* they have no compunction about coming over and *touching you*. Shudder.

Street carnivals. Football mascots. Advertising minions. God-help-me: charity workers. Pantomine...

A great many of my friends at uni are in the light entertainment society. They do panto. They have props. I once opened a friends closet only to have *3* headless pantomime nightmares fall out on top of me. She kept them in a dark closet: way to compound the residual childhood anxiety.

Trigger Happy TV. If one of those costume stunts happened to me I would certainly have a shit-story for you guys. The though makes me sweat needles. I would have a stroke. I would become unhinged and die a slow undignifed death. Dribbling. I dream about this and wake up screaming.

There is not space on the internet to tell you how I feel about Furries.

Length? 7 foot tall and made out of diseased nylon plush.
(Fri 11th Apr 2008, 11:41, More)

» Spoilt Brats

Walking over Magdalen Bridge, Oxford.
I overheard the following exchange between an incredibly pretty, slim girl with a sleek swish of gold-blond hair, and her smartly suited gentleman boyfriend.

" Fucking WAIT, Tristan, my FUCKING PASH* is caught on the FUCKING HOLLY"

Her creamy home-counties face was twisted into a snarl of ferocious ugliness.

I bet Mr Rugby-shoulders has married her by now.

* abrv. "pashmina" A gauzy cashmere badge of true breeding.
(Tue 14th Oct 2008, 21:37, More)
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