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Ir­ra­tional fears

BE­ING A GROWN-UP comes with a fear check­list: cancer? Death of some­one you love? Clowns (once funny and now so in­ex­cus­ably dis­turb­ing you can’t quite work out why any­one ever in­vented them)? Run­ning-out-of-money/time/ road/chances? Tick, tick, tick, tick. So far, so nor­mal. But then there are ir­ra­tional fears. The ones that make no sense. Still scary though. Like…


Hands up, who has lit a match and, as it fizzed into life, ducked to avoid a Bruce Wil­lis-film-sized fire­ball ex­plo­sion caused by the gas that has been se­cretly leak­ing for ages (due to the fact that this time you ac­tu­ally did leave it on)?


It was that ar­ti­cle. Read many years ago but never for­got­ten. About the snake in the loo. The snake that slith­ered up the U-bend while a bot­tom was firmly in place. A malev­o­lent, silent, bib­li­cally com­pro­mised ser­pent. Down there. While we are… up here. Vul­ner­a­ble. Un­aware. This is not some phal­lic, sex­ual wish-ful­fil­ment sit­u­a­tion. This ap­pals us. Al­most ev­ery time we go to the loo. Which is A LOT.


We all se­cretly know that one day we are go­ing to zip up a dress or one of those back-zipped jump­suits and be stuck there for ever, wrig­gling and weep­ing. Un­able to exit with any dig­nity. We’ll call it Zipxit.


It is im­pos­si­ble to climb or de­scend an es­ca­la­tor without won­der­ing at least once whether you will get sucked in and man­gled.


Maybe you don’t go to the theatre be­cause you are too tired, too broke, too an­noyed by the tim­ings and the small ice-cream spoons. Or is it that ev­ery time you go, you are gripped with the ter­ror as you si­dle into your up­per-cir­cle seat that you are go­ing to tum­ble scream­ing into the stalls be­low? If you are sit­ting in those stalls you can­not con­cen­trate be­cause you know that there is go­ing to be a tum­bler AT ANY MO­MENT. So dra­matic.


Ever had that thought, while cross­ing a road, that if you whipped your head round the last thing you’d see would be a tram rat­tling to­wards you about to crush you and spread you all over the ground, even though you live in a city with no trams? Ob­vi­ously, you would die – hor­ri­bly – on im­pact. ‘In­cred­i­bly young-look­ing woman killed in freak tram ac­ci­dent,’ the pa­pers would say.


Pic­ture the scene. You have ar­rived in an ex­otic lo­ca­tion for a hol­i­day that you re­ally, re­ally de­serve and can in no way af­ford. Within min­utes you are ar­rested in a case of cat­a­strophic iden­tity con­fu­sion and thrown in a ter­ri­ble jail and never re­leased. ‘But it’s not me,’ you say on re­peat un­til you die of dysen­tery.


You love a walk in the woods. So dark and mys­te­ri­ous and at­mo­spheric. The trees are your friends. You must re­cy­cle more. But wait, are you lost? Have you seen that bush be­fore? Are you about to emerge into a haunted clear­ing where you will be sac­ri­ficed by the for­est de­mon and his foresty min­ions in a re­volt­ing rit­ual? Of course you are.


So – af­ter han­dling a raw bird – you usu­ally turn on the tap with your el­bow and pump the hand­wash with your chin, but one day you for­get that and… Oh God… Did you touch them with your chick­eny hands? Are you splat­ter­ing chicken juice around the kitchen, in­fest­ing your house with po­ten­tially fa­tal sal­mo­nella? Your eyes de­velop imag­ined ul­tra­vi­o­let vi­sion and all you can see are bright-blue spots of dis­ease and filth squirted ev­ery­where. There is no es­cape.


As we type, there is surely a me­teor ca­reer­ing through space about to punc­ture Lon­don. Is that Shep­herd’s Bush Round­about? No, it’s a huge fiery crater and all the cars are slip­ping in­side. Also… SINK­HOLES. One minute your house, which is your pen­sion, is there. The next…

The Midults’ pod­cast, I’m Ab­so­lutely Fine!, is avail­able on itunes;

One day we are go­ing to zip up a dress and be stuck there for ever, wrig­gling and weep­ing. Un­able to exit. We’ll call it Zipxit

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