What is it about me that’s so scary?

There’s probably quite a range of things that can give you the heebie-jeebies and dent your confidence in your own sanity. As an example: if I started seeing little green men everywhere I went – the classic kind with boggly eyes and tinny, mechanical voices, my first thought would be –

Goodness! something has gone ‘ping’ in my head whilst I slept. Where is the nearest hospital? Perhaps I should just call an ambulance?

as opposed to

Gracious! Interplanetary voyagers have invaded whilst I slept. Are the police aware? Perhaps it would be prudent to hide in case they have weapons that reduce a human to a little heap of carbon dust or a puddle of water.

Well, it hasn’t got to that stage yet, but there is this something… this something about me that seems to startle or physically frighten some people.

And I don’t know what it is.

Earlier today I took one of the cats to the vets to get her claws clipped. Nothing out of the ordinary there. Judy the receptionist did not cower behind her desk and beg me to just take the contents of the till, and Rosie my cat, and be gone. I had a jolly little chat with yet another Polish locum who was all for charging me nothing at all to clip Rosie’s nails until Judy sotto voce corrected him.

So far so more or less normal, but then I got home. No sooner was I safely indoors and thinking about sandwiches than Charlie appeared in my back garden carrying an empty dog lead. This is not unusual for Charlie. He’s a bit simple, is constantly mislaying one pet or another and has no concept of trespass or privacy. There he was, nose pressed up against my patio doors, looking in.

So I went out. He took several steps back, quaking – sort of.

What’s up, Charlie? Though the empty dog-lead was a clue.

Together we searched my garden for his dog. He hung back, seeming unwilling to venture further into my garden with me. He’s happy enough to wander round it when he thinks I’m out – even in the middle of the night when he assumes I’ll be asleep.

She isn’t here, Charlie. Usually she just comes in, does a big poop on my lawn and leaves. I even had to buy one of those pooper-scoopers…

I am trying, in our oblique English way, to make a point about dog poop, but subtlety does not register with Charlie. You’d have to hit him over the head with a hammer –

Giant Poodle poop THWACK! in my back garden THWACK! not THWACK! at all THWACK! acceptable THWACK! THWACK!

And of course I wouldn’t do that. Live and let live; anything for a quiet life.

All the same, he is starting at me in horror and backing away, muttering. I give up and come indoors.

Gazing in the living-room mirror, I try to work out what it is, since this is not the first time I have had this reaction. Admittedly, it’s a bit gloomy in my living room since I have to keep the curtains closed, since the cats swung on the nets and ripped the rawlplug out of the wall… But surely I could see if I had sprouted a big hairy wart on the end of my nose? Do I have fangs, perhaps? All I can see is a tired, pale, oval of a face. Sure, it looks like no face I ever imagined I would be wearing, but we all grow old sooner or later. It’s familiar enough.

Am I making weird faces? Of course, now I am staring in the mirror I am not making faces, but maybe I only make faces when I’m not staring in the mirror. Someone once asked my mother if I had St Vitus’ Dance when I was an infant. I had no idea who St Vitus was or why he should be dancing or what that had to do with me, and I never found out. What I was left with was her displeasure. Her embarrassment, her irritation even, to be saddled with a child like me.

Do I twitch?

Do I grimace?

The other thing that used to happen to me was in supermarkets. I thought to begin with it was only when I was with Mum. She had this habit of grabbing at me in horror as if I was about to step on someone – or blaring (she was deaf) Watch out Linda there’s a lady behind you – when I’d been perfectly aware of the lady and was in no danger of crashing into her. And if anything she was the one who was not aware of her surroundings: I always seemed to be having to coax her out of the way of other shoppers.

I thought it was just me she did this to, but later discovered that my Canadian sister had also been irritated at being treated like some sort of ticking time bomb or monstrous impediment in public.

I thought it was Mum, not me. But then I was in the supermarket on my own one day, quietly shopping, aware of an elderly lady shopping some considerable distance away from me, when suddenly she gasped, stepped back and threw her hands up, as if convinced I was about to assault her. I wanted to yell at her What IS it with you? What exactly did I just do to elicit that reaction?

But of course I didn’t, since that would only have frightened her more. She’s probably have screamed for the manager.

Maybe I don’t want to know the answer, even with Halloween coming up.

What is it about me that’s so scary?

Maybe something old with plenty of beams…

So I was sitting in the car eating a Tesco sandwich and saving till last the Yorkie Bar ladies are not allowed to eat. I only permit myself chocolate bars on these in-the-car occasions, which usually follow inexplicable road trips back to the town where I used to live. Somehow I am drawn back to the Tesco’s there at intervals. It makes me feel safe – comforted. I tend to go there when I’m stressed. I know – how weird can you get? It’s just that – that Tesco’s is kind of the centre of my ‘map’.

I’m even worrying myself now.

So, I drive all the way down there, which takes an hour and twenty minutes and uses petrol I can’t afford. I nearly always get stuck in three separate traffic bottlenecks, which wastes even more petrol. And the sun is usually in my eyes on the way down. I have these pathetic old eyes nowadays – I can see out of them same as ever, via specs, but the sun hurts them – a lot. I have therefore taken to wearing giant wrap-around ‘overglasses’. But as soon as I put them on, people – especially men, for some reason – start honking at me. I can see much better in strong sunlight with the overglasses over my prescription glasses, but I suppose they may give me the air of a doddery, nearly-blind-person, still irresponsibly driving. No doubt I spook people. Tee hee.

By the time I return the sun will have sailed just far enough across the sky to get in my eyes all over again. Nevertheless, I seem to have to go. It’s like Therapy. Once there, I don’t usually buy much – odd stuff like cat food and magazines, sandwiches and manly chocolate bars. I drink water from a bottle I carry with me, and I read a magazine for a bit before setting off on the return journey. Sometimes I watch people – my Dad’s favourite occupation too, in his declining years. Not that I’m in my declining years as yet.

Sometimes over the top of my magazine I observe fat ladies wearing the wrong sorts of dresses; children with smartphones clamped to their little pink ears; dogs eager to get into the backs of four-by-fours and make them all muddy. And I like to watch the man who collects the trolleys from the Perspex shelters and pushes them back to the racks, from where they are immediately removed, re-used and dumped in the Perspex shelters again. He gave me my long pink scarf back once. I left it tied to a handle and he ran after me with it. I liked that long pink scarf. A modern-day Sisyphus, he is. What did he do so wrong, I wonder, this nice, kind, simple man, that the gods should have consigned him to an eternity of trolleyology at Tesco’s.

I would have made a good detective, I think. I notice stuff. Stuff that might come in useful, if I was a detective.

But on this particular day, I was actually reading the magazine, and this one was a free magazine that had fallen out of another free magazine. It was called Property and it was about (three guesses) property. I am a bit of a sucker for the useless and the glossy. I like the smell of glossy magazines, the sheer opulent shininess of them, the newness. And I’m thinking about moving house myself, so I suppose Property is lurking about in my brain at the moment.

But not this sort of property. This is the sort of stuff that costs £520,000. It’s fun to window-shop, though. I like to imagine myself in “a handsome country cottage with fantastic rural views” or a Desirable Detached Stone-Built Period House: 4 Bedrooms: Contemporary Family Bathroom: 4 good sized reception rooms… 4 reception rooms!!

What is a reception room?

I do rather crave a “long rear Garden adjoining a meadow” – adjoining a meadow… Ohhhh – a meadow – all those pretty flowers – and a “Fabulous Detached Studio Home Office or Guest Room”.

And they say money can’t buy you happiness. If only I could just try it…

But I came upon a nasty surprise. In the centrefold feature, a misguided estate agent had taken it upon him(or her)self to write poems on behalf of clients searching for Properties as opposed to selling them. Don’t you just hate the sort of poems people who can’t write poems write? I loathe the very assumption that as long as it more or less rhymes, it’s poetry. No matter if it scans, even. What’s scans?

Here are just a few, for your delectation and delight:

My Belgium (sic) clients are coming to Kent / A period property would be heaven sent / A rural retreat complete with a view / Entertaining clients is something he has to do / business or pleasure he needs great space, / A garden, a pool to relax the pace… / Although this fine gent would like to play – London still often calls him away / Thus transport to London for the working day… / Can you help this man find his work rest and play?

(This one was superimposed over a faded-out photo of a swimming-pool)

A young city couple, looking to escape the rat race / Would like a rural, leafy retreat with plenty of outside space / Looking for two or three bedrooms for their family to increase / Must have plenty of character and set in a haven of peace / A period home not far from the station / East Sussex would be their perfect location / Original features are wanted it seems / Maybe something old with plenty of beams

(This one was superimposed over a faded-out photo of an orange ban-the-bomb symbol. It took me a while to join up the dots. Haven of peace – ban nuclear weapons – sort of peaceful, innnit?)

No, it’s no good. I was going to type out a third, but I just can’t bear to. My fingers refuse to obey my brain.

Eeeuch!