Sunday, September 15, 2013

Respect the fears of others

There was a time when I was afraid of dogs, even now I am not a fan of Alsatians. Once I was dubious about sheep but soon noticed that I was taller than they were. I am still far from enthusiastic about cows and decidedly afraid of horses that are not safely the other side of a fence.

The Alsatian owner mocked me when I shrieked as her (wretched) dog licked the back of my knees. I expostulated that it is (more) normal to be afraid of something large, hairy, unpredictable and with teeth than of something small, skittery with whiskers – like a mouse. Touché, she is dead afraid of mice.

In my thirty plus years of country life I have observed that fear needs time. If it is my turn in the bath, the spider has to get out. If I have time to let it get out graciously, I run a trail of loo-paper over the side. If I have not, it gets swept out unceremoniously with a towel.

My fear of (most) dogs was overcome when our first Labrador, the blonde Victor, was caught biting the buttons off the Chesterfield sofa.
Exasperated, I took him by the scruff of the neck and spanked him.
Then, in reaction, I sat on same sofa and cried. He climbed back up, put his head on my knees, and we cried together.

Of course there are evil insects, like hornets and wasps, and tiresome ones like flies. But one learns to deal with them, live with them as far as possible, destroy them if not – if you can, which is not always possible.


It is so easy to mock other people for fears that you do not share. I shall never forget the shriek issuing from a holiday maker who discovered that a technically ready-to-roast farm chicken still has head, neck, legs and feet attached, never mind the loose abats inside.

I was reminded of all this a few nights ago when the last of this season's holiday makers arrived, late, on an Edgar Allen Poe kind of evening. A wasp buzzed round a lamp. It was damp and dark outside, an owl was busy mourning something somewhere. The sheep moved up the field, pale shadows in the gloaming. 'Les moutons, sont-ils mechants?' asked the girl. A salamander slid down the wall and shot out the door. The wind moved leaves unseen in the trees. I should not have been surprised that our urban cousins fled. However, I was very saddened, they had so much to learn, to enjoy.


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