I have been ruminating (as we cow like types will) on fear and what makes me afraid. It's an easy one, spiders number one and, as of last year, bikes number two. Not dying you will have picked up and more of that later. Clearly my fears are all irrational but that does not stop the grinding panic, the rush of blood to somewhere where it is terrifying. I have a large nature book that I can't touch because it has the most gruesome picture of a spider's face, I can hardly bear to type the words. Every time the last episode of the Lord of the Rings film comes on I tell myself that it is just that, a film, that I have read the book a hundred times, that I am safe at home and all is well. No good as soon as the intrepid travellers enter that mountainside into Shelob's lair, I have my head buried in a cushion and nothing will get me to look up.
And why bikes? I used to live on my bike when I was about ten. I could ride with no hands and on one wheel, I could pelt down our hill with my feet off the pedals. Then last year, nearly 50 years on, I decided to get myself a new bike, I hadn't ridden since I was about thirteen. I didn't get just any old bike but a £2000 beauty that gave you power assistance as you pedalled (remember the fat leg problem). I proved the old adage wrong you can forget how to ride a bike. Oh I could still just about keep upright but I went into a flat spin literally if I had to stop, turn round or go near another human being or form of transport. In the end I fell off so often I was driven rigid with fear and now can't even bear to pedal on the straight.
My terror therefore is of scraging (Brummie term means scraping) my knee or seeing ghastly images of spiders but not of this vile cancer that is invading my body and doing me real harm. I simply cannot get the adrenalin flowing on its behalf. Sometimes when I feel dreadful, I have recently had a cold and a cough and I fell over in the snow and ricked my bad leg; I feel a glimmer of something but it's more like irritation. I used to be frightened of dying, I could get myself to this place where my scalp tingled as I made myself think about what not existing might be like, but it is much easier not to do that and frankly now I can't be arsed. Of course I am frightened of being very ill, but am comforted by the fact that when this has happened in the past, dreadful flu or last winter's cold, I really haven't cared whether I lived or died so when the time comes I will be looking for relief. Also I get claustrophobic so I am frightened of coffins. I'll have one of those whicker jobbies please, they seem less closed in, idiot that I am!
People say that believing in the after life stops the fear of dying and gives comfort. It seems for me it is entirely the opposite. I would be absolutely pissing myself if I thought I had to go somewhere else. What if I didn't like it, didn't fit in? What about those terrible judgements they say will be made about you? I haven't done much that is really sinful but I am no goody goody. I tell lies, I have chocolate and eat it all by myself, I am anti-social and I used to be a flirt. I covet my neighbours clean house. And what if all that sent me to hell, I know it would be filled with spiders and bikes. So thank goodness I know that I will be going nowhere but into the collective memories of my friends and family. To me that is the great comfort and probably the reason I am not afraid.
Of course I might die in the street after seeing a spider and falling off my bike in which case be assured that, as I breathe my last, I will be shaking in my boots.