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.

A Lover’s Scar

Annie phones me in a froth, broken and emotional. “Annie!? Tell me what’s happened. Now listen to me, take some slo-w breathes in and out, and try to calm down.”

“I just can’t believe it. Just, can’t, believe it.” I hear the sound of rushing air mixed with telephonic white noise, while she fills and then empties her lungs. “I just, can’t believe it.” She repeats. I imagine her, head hung low, veiled in despondency, searching and unable to find new words to describe the same feelings.

“It’s okay, that’s better, take it e-asy,” I say, like I’m settling a twitchy horse spooked by a snake in the grass, “just calm right, on, down. It’s okay Annie.” It’s working, I hear the sound of a nose being blown hard into a paper tissue.

“He never noticed,” I just about make out, as Annie finishes dabbing at her nose, “in four and a half years, he never noticed.” Okay, this is about Jake, I conclude. Annie and Jake have not long broken up and Annie is finding it hard to come to terms with. Over the last eight and a half weeks I’ve received four or five calls from Annie in a similar vein.

“He never noticed what, Annie?”

“If I’d laid him on a sheet of paper and drawn around his whole body, twice – ”

“Twice? Why twice?” I’m asking, trying to fathom out where this is going.

“To represent both sides of his body, the outlines laid down next to each other.” Her tone tightens a little, “Beebie, could you just hear me out on this one?”

“Sure Annie, I just needed to get the image in my head right – you know?.”

“Okay, so I’ve got these two outlines, well you know what happens next?” I’m thinking this is a rhetorical question and remain silent. “Beebie! Are you listening to what I am saying?”

“Yes Annie, of course I am, please continue.”

“Well, it occurred to me recently, I could draw in each mole, every dark pigment, birth mark, blemish, contour and crease found in his skin. I could map out Jake’s body like the night sky and with the same degree of accuracy.” Although thinking it a weird idea, the words I chose said otherwise.

“Aww… that’s real sweet Annie.”

Don’t ‘aww that’s real sweet Annie’ me, Beebie!” You see? This is a clear demonstration of why I’m no good with women and long term, remain single: I just don’t have the skills to read them. “Do you know what he said to me shortly before we split up?” I plump for this as a question requiring a response, but keep it simple.

“What did he say, Annie?”

“We were cuddling in bed together on a bright, sunny morning and Jake’s holding my hand. Moving his fingers through mine, he suddenly says ‘I’ve never noticed this scar on your hand before‘. He sounded genuinely surprised, peered at it up close, turning around my hand in the sunlight to get a better look.”

“Okay, that sounds sweet Annie, so what’s up?” Instead of a prize of yellow cheese filled with holes, I get the unforgiving cold steel snap across my back as the high tensile spring of the mouse-trap is released.

What’s up with that?! What’s up?!” To ease the strain, Annie pushes up into fifth gear finding cruise-control, her voice takes on a calm-but-serious tone. “The scar is on the stop of my hand, it is white, two inches long and the original incision was held together by eight stitches, each having left their own, distinct perpendicular marks. And in four and a half years, he’d never noticed!”

“I’m sorry Annie, I don’t know what to say.” I genuinely didn’t.



Held aloft by the crazy man,

Walking the centre of the road,

In his plastic anorak, wellies, and nothing much else.

Sitting northwards of the jet-stream,

Great Britain took the rainfall,

Normally divided up between all of Europe’s lands.

Instead, the continent baked,

While the UK became sodden.

Experiencing precipitation,

For prolonged periods,




And night,

In August, 2017.

Her Finger Up My Nose

A tourist in town, quickly swiveled around. An arm extended upwards, pointing.

Before I could move, a finger went up my nose and my head tilted onto a 45 degree axis.


I reached onto tippy-toes to disengage, but slipped back down onto the soles of my feet.

The fit of the digit was snug, way better than any one of my own.


My arms swayed gently, while I waited for the expected withdrawal.

I hoped her finger was clean, it seemed to smell okay to me.


A look of shock had crossed her face, perplexed, she froze.

I remained impaled, until passersby assisted, lifting me free.

First Run in 5 Years


I ran.

And I walked,

In between running.

It seemed a sensible thing.


I did not absorb the natural surroundings.

I tried, but couldn’t fix my attention on sights or sounds.

My thoughts were focused on the present, when I’d next walk,

When I’d next run, looking for markers, that bench there,

A tree here, when this person walks past.


A mix of runners, walkers, lovers & friends.

Couples seated on benches, in quiet conversation.

Older, married couples, strolling in the morning sun.

Not so much conversation with them, I noted.

Enough has been said, over all the years.

Some muscles pulled gently,

I eased off in response.

Quickly felt tired,

30 mins,




Next week,

When I’ll try again,

Maybe only 30 minutes.

Slowly, but surely build up.