Hi there girls and boys, I hope you’re well?
Fear. Noun or verb. An unpleasant emotion or thought that you have when you are frightened or worried by something dangerous, painful, or bad that is happening or might happen. Something like watching rich blokes think up a closed football league.
We all have fear, some more than others.
I read a bit of horror, although not as much as I used to. Stephen King, James Herbert, Clive Barker, Ramsey Campbell and many others were a staple of my youth. None of them actually scared me. I have a disconnect from books or movies that others see as disinterest. Perhaps I see their own involvement as just weird. I can enjoy the reading or watching as something to pass the time, but have never been on the edge of my seat as one of my friends can be, while watching something as ordinary as a David Attenborough nature programme. “And so, the baby turtle emerges into the sunlight…but others are watching.” At this, she’ll have her hands over her face. This raises the question of why I go for books of that genre. At the moment I’m re-reading Fevre Dream by George Martin. I say reading, Alexa is reading it to me. Vampires mixed with Mississippi paddle steamers, it’s a good read. I suppose it’s because I want to see the beast beaten, although in this book’s case, that’s not necessarily the outcome you want.
Horror movies are the same. I can watch the original Halloween time and time again, and every time Michael is shot and falls from the window, I ask Loomis to shoot him again.. He never does of course, we need the villain for the endless crappy sequels and dire reboots. I enjoy the Saw movies, if just for the inventiveness of the traps, and the Final Destination’s for the way death stalks the survivors. Mind you, the two girls that die in the tanning salon in the third one, fuck they deserve everything they got. Even if just for their voices.
Fear abounds in the real world and for good reason. We have evolved to be scared of situations where we could be injured, whether that’s by animals or cliff edges or deep water. We can be scared of anything, spiders, the outside, the inside, needles, people, situations.. My own .. well I was going to type fear, but it isn’t quite that… shall we say inner tension? The thought that I could appear to be ill-informed about something I should perhaps know about, oh it can transform me from a confident girl to a shy girl in a second. Asking if I can use your toilet.. even in a home I’ve been visiting for years such as Ellie’s parents.. oh my… just excusing myself can feel excruciating. Even thinking about it now, my toes are curling.
I often hear the phrase, “confidence is sexy”. In what way sexy? My only area of absolute confidence is about lifesaving or teaching somebody to swim. Personally, I don’t get scared in the sea, even at night. Others I know can look out at the oncoming darkness and refuse point blank to go in, preferring to stay on the beach, getting the fire and tea going. A few predators will be out there, we know this, but are you going to be bound by your fear of what may happen? My darling Ellie can be like this sometimes, wringing her hands until I return, at which point she will be checking I have all of my limbs. I mean its lovely, but unnecessary! I reckon she just likes the feel of wet neoprene. On the odd occasion when she joins me in the sea she is on her guard, so that puts my own levels of awareness up a few notches. Having to struggle a person back to shore when they are scared isn’t fun.
I fail to see then how that perceived confidence is sexy. I have other areas of minor confidence. I can make a good cuppa.. can cook the bejesus out of a chicken.. I can wallpaper.. I can carry a tune.. I can do a very good Geordie accent. On the other hand I have zero confidence in my ability to stroke next door’s cat without her hissing at me, and I’m at about the same level when passing a chip shop, knowing that my inner demons will always win in the battle to enter or not.
I mean would I get in a tank with a shark or killer whale? No, thats just stupidity. But I have been in the sea with sharks, albeit with me in a cage. Did I have fear? Too bloody right I did. I have been scared in my life, but only a few times has that fear started with a person. Here in Durham we have three prisons. As part of some charity work we visited the high security version, Frankland. At no time did I think we were we in any danger, although we were working with rapists and murderers. There were plenty of prison officers about, but when I came home I did think that anything could have happened to us, all women, in that little room with those criminals.
I know a man that lives around the corner from me. He is petrified of cracks in the pavement. Not the join where one paving slab butts up against another, but cracks. Poorly laid concrete paving, tarmac that has a bulge caused by roots, he won’t go anywhere near them. He doesn’t know why this is, he tells me, he had no bad experiences when younger, just has a living hell every time he has to cross one, which on some of the paths round here is every ten metres. Cheers, Durham council. His wife is a very patient girl but you can see her face sometimes, just that slight annoyance with him. He’s a big man as well, hardly the shrinking flower.
Then there are scary people, whether deliberately so or unintentionally. Gangsters, or gangstas, (the illiterate versions), love to think they can intimidate people. They instil fear by threats, violence and abuse. Some are fawned over by the easily led, some by the media, such as the Krays. Loved by their neighbours etc. but theses arseholes killed people. You don’t get a name like the Mad Axeman for nothing.
Locally we had Raoul Moat. He used a shotgun to shoot through the window of his girlfriend’s house, then killed her new boyfriend. The next day he shot and wounded a policeman having a break in his car. If you ask about him where he lived, “Moaty” was an angel. The police tracked him down to the beautiful town of Rothbury, where he failed to give himself up and took the coward’s way out by shooting himself. This was only after comedy footballer Paul “Gazza” Gascoigne turned up in a dressing gown with a fishing rod, lager and a takeaway meal for Moat. I don’t know which was the stupider cunt. The policeman that had been shot later killed himself as he couldn’t deal with the aftermath and his injuries. Which only goes to show that Moaty couldn’t even do that right, from a metre away. What kind of idiot do you have to be to fire a shotgun into a car and NOT kill the occupant? In the US, rappers will witter on about their guns, ho’s and money, perpetuating the myth of the easy dollar for those willing to carry a weapon. Spectacularly tattooed men in vests, (I mean, vests, are you serious?), wearing lots of fake jewellery “an shit”. Give me strength.
This all begins in the schoolyard. The, usually, bigger boy or girl will push others around, quickly forming a cabal of likeminded and easily led pupils. Their bond is still one of fear, the main bully keeping his little gang in line by threats, but as they are on his side they may not see this. The cult of the sycophant and celebrity worship can begin early. As in later life, the leader will get others to do his dirty work for him. You get the same with terrorists that seduce young men into their ranks, in order to blow themselves up in the name of whatever deity they feel is going to reward them in paradise. If you feel so passionately about this martyrdom, then why not do it yourself?
There could be a fine line between being confident and just closing your eyes and going for it. Myself and a few others did the zip line thing off the Tyne bridge, and the people running the event were confident about the ropes and attachments to the bridge…but then they would be. I don’t think they’d have many repeat zippers if they answered questions looking doubtful. “Will this hold?” “Oooh I don’t know, it’s looking like it might…” I just closed my eyes and let him push me. THEN I opened my eyes and enjoyed it, and have since loved every one. But am I confident in doing it? I’m confident that the people concerned have checked every connection, yes. But I don’t find their confidence sexy. “Wow, did you see the nonchalant way he attached that clip.. phwooar, I just have to have him”, I’ve never said.
The idea that a ghost is going to appear to you is common, although quite what said ghost could do to you is beyond me.. go wooo and rattle some chains? A monster also. You could be faced with a Cujo-like dog, although the book version is a million times better than the movie. A rabid animal that wants to rip out your throat, yes, I’d be wetting myself. Vampires and werewolves, I just laugh. The fear of the unseen can be more interesting than, say, Godzilla, for instance. I’ve never got Godzilla, big body, tiny wee head. Surely to see a ghost would be more interesting than scary? Wouldn’t the science and curiosity take over, even in the dankest of dungeons? Once it has been established that the dead can’t hurt you, wouldn’t you just ache to find out what the ghost is, what it wants, can we communicate, instead of running away?
The fear of rejection, from a person, now that I can relate to as you well know, dear reader. In reality, what’s the worst that can happen? A no, perhaps a laugh in your face? I appreciate that when you’re young this could be extremely hurtful, but life goes on. Later, you yourself can laugh at the thought of how important that moment was, or how cringey you feel now compared to then, or so you’d hope. Abby tells me that her first object of desire outside of her group of friends was a girl from her uni law degree course. That’s Glasgow uni for you! She literally laughed in Abby’s face when asked out on a date. Abby, even then, was a stoic person, and moved on. Still you have to ask why she is still single…. I mean I know why, it’s a rhetorical question. The reason is she’s waiting for Ellie and I to break up, then she can choose which of us she has! Form an orderly queue. Or it’s that she’s joining me in the nunnery.
I read so many earnest posts on reddit about teenagers and their angst when talking about rejection. You’ll get over it, in the meantime here’s a hug. Having said that, I’m not sure how I would have coped if, on that sunny Friday in September 2005, Ellie had said no to me. Looking back 15 years or so that pain will have been lessened, but at the time it may have hurt like a knife in the heart. But again, what is there to be actually scared of? We build up these events in our lives on purpose, it seems. We as a species just love to put emotional obstacles in our way. Look at religion. Catholic guilt, and for what? So we have to go to confession? Oh no, Father Dave is going to know I’ve had a bacon sandwich on Friday morning. Life is so much easier if you leave it behind, trust me on that one… but then I still cross myself when I see a funeral cortege or when I go into church.. so perhaps leaving it behind wasn’t the correct term.
I’ll leave it there for, now but will continue on our little journey through fear next time.
As ever, thanks for reading.
2nd of May, 2021