An Arachnophobe Writes…

It’s tough, at 1.83cms tall, 88kgs in weight and male, being an Arachnophobe. My reactions are quick, sight twenty-twenty, I have good-sized hands making great scoops for spider repatriation back to the wild. Yet the very thought, makes me shudder physically.

I am a closet-Arachnophobe; which makes the situation twice as bad. I’ve told no one before. No one but you.

On removal missions, sent in by fellow cowards, I ensure the door is closed up behind me. So it’s just me and ‘it’.

I wear a fearful face as my brain works through all the options, based upon all the possible variables.

Have you got rid of it yet?!” I hear come through the walls, “I want a bath, make sure you clear the cobweb away too, I don’t want to sit in cobweb!

Pressure. Always pressure. Never a few hours to think, sit in the garden, sip tea, sketch out ideas onto paper. Never.

No. Action is required by out-Arachnophobes, quickly.

Don’t spiders look evil? A close up photo is not required to show the hairs and fangs and eyes, its all there evident, when you find yourself face-to-face.

The most recent strategy I deployed involved a one-metre length of toilet tissue, dangled into the bath. This giant, burger of a spider, having initially ran, worked out – I believe, an opportunity to escape existed.

It hung on with three of its legs, as I craned my arm over towards the window. To my misfortune, I’d miscalculated the ratio between the metric length of the toilet tissue and imperial-measure of the window frame height.

Whilst trying to lift the dangling spider upwards in an attempt to clear the windowsill, my hand collided with the top of the window frame. The collision was enough to cause those three long legs to let go and now be faced with the creature glowering with anger – I imagined, standing there in front of the open window, considering its next move.

There was only one course of action left available and in the situation, I needed to react quickly.  I blew hard, but it just jiggled around, caught in its own silk strands. I blew again, much harder this time and finally, the spider sailed out of the window to ride the air currents down to the ground.

Each encounter, has its own drama.

OCD Stories: Toast

I don’t know how or why, but I seem to attract complete strangers in one-off meetings where they share interesting stories with me. Today, this happened while I was recovering from a two-circuit run in University Park. While catching my breath, leant over unfastening my trainers and loosening my knee support, I became aware of someone sitting down on the same bench. I looked across to see a young, brown-haired woman, wearing a pretty floral summer dress and sandals. We politely exchanged smiles.

“A lovely morning for a run.” She said.

“Yes,” I agreed, “I’ve not long re-started running after a break of about five years and I’m still finding it rather hard work.” We exchanged a few more pleasantries concerning the beauty of the park, the birds and abundance of squirrels. During which time I explained how I paced myself by running a while and then walking, with each change of pace targeted to a marker of some description. This might be a tree I’d explained, or a bridge (spanning the river adjoining the park), a dog-walker perhaps, and so on.

Believing the conversation to be at an end, I checked my watch then leaning forward again, I re-tyed my laces. As I did this, I heard her say something along the lines of “I have little habits I use in my life too.” Before I’d given it much thought, I heard myself asking what sorts of habits she kept to.

The following is an accurate summary of what, with candid simplicity, she went on to tell me. We parted company a short while after she’d finished talking, but not before simple introductions took place – an exchange of names, but nothing else.

Bethany is particular about how she has her toast. If shockingly undercooked toast is represented by the number 1 (meaning bread uncooked, being equal to zero) and toast burnt-to-a-cinder a 10, then perfection for her rates at 7.5 on the toasting scale. What is she looking for? It turns out the answer is an all-over, largely even brownness, with only minor evidence (relative to the  entire mass) of blackening due to burning, along the crust edges. The overall effect is found pleasing to the eye, the bouquet of charring but a slightest hint to the nose.

Bethany adds two further ingredients, transforming the toast into a snack. Butter (soft, unrefrigerated) and a sticky, dark brown paste with a strong distinctive and salty flavour.

The butter is distributed and flattened out carefully over the toast while it is still hot, melting and thereby moistening the whole top-side. A buttery knife dipped straight into a pot of yeast extract is a nightmarish scenario for Bethany, and cannot be allowed to pass under any circumstances. Therefore and without fuss, the knife is taken to the sink, washed under a hot tap, cleaned off and dried.

Enough of the sticky spread is then manipulated onto the knife, judged right so as to avoid the need to re-introduce the utensil back into the pot, thus avoiding the transfer of crumbs. This is then applied around the edges and skilfully worked into the centre, ensuring an even distribution, taking great care not to ruck-up the surface of the toast.

A slice of toast requires cutting into smaller sections. To not do so results in a mess around the lips. This, despite whatever efforts are employed through the sophisticated manoeuvres possible within the swivel action of a wrist. Bored of four squares or the elementary alternative of four triangular shapes, Bethany adopts a variation she refers to as the triangular-thirds option. With a clean, sharpened knife, she cuts an equilateral triangle in the centre, producing two right-angled triangles on either side.

For presentation purposes, even if only for herself, said sections of toast are carefully transferred using a wooden spatula to a clean, gently pre-warmed side plate (electric oven 120°C/250°F, gas mark 1 for five minutes). Eaten seated, with a paper serviette provided to wipe hands on completion, the plate is then immediately washed and left to drip dry on the plate rack.

This is Bethany’s routine. The precision gives her pleasure, comfort and the sense that everything’s going to be alright.