You may remember how I’ve described my love for winter before, and how I’ve sung the praises of this time of year. I’ve ranted on about the feeling in the air, the crispness of the freshly shed leaves, the invigorating nip in the wind, and all that stuff. I stand over everything I said, but I want to make one caveat, which is: I love winter, except for icy pavements. I really, really, really hate ice. It’s more than just a dislike, really – it’s a crippling horror, and I wish I could get over it.
I’ve always had this fear, as far as I can remember. I’ve never much liked standing in bathtubs, for instance, and I was a nervous (and terribly bad) roller-skater. On the one occasion when I was induced to go ice-skating, on the pretext that ‘it’ll be fun!’, I almost had to be carried out of the place on a stretcher. Not because I’d injured myself, I have to add, but because I was in the throes of a full-on nervous breakdown. I circled the rink exactly once, clutching like a limpet to the railing the whole way around, shrieking at children to get out of my way. I distinctly remember yelling ‘I can’t go around! YOU go around!’ at a six-year-old. This is not a memory I like to dwell on.
The first real, proper fall I had was when I was about fourteen, and on my way to school one wintry morning. I was on my careful way down the hill leading from my house, and I had to turn a corner at the bottom of the hill. The corner, of course, was icy, and because it was on an incline, when I came around the corner I didn’t only slip and fall, but I flew up in the air, flipped around and landed on my knees, with my rear end facing the main road – which was full of cars, people, school buses, other kids, and all that jazz. It was, probably, the most embarrassing thing that had ever happened to me in my short life. And boy, did it hurt. My knees were sliced open, and I had to spend the whole day trying to hide them under my school skirt. But it was the feeling of losing my footing that stayed with me, haunting my nightmares. I hated it.
Sometimes, I think there’s very little I can do about this fear – it’s in my genes. My grandfather was the finest man in our hometown – he was extraordinarily tall, and very distinguished-looking; like most men of his generation, he wore a suit and tie every day. He was also utterly terrified of icy pavements. I grew up on top of a hill, and my grandparents lived beside me – the only thing guaranteed to keep my grandfather at home was the prospect of there being ice on the ground. He didn’t even like to walk outside when there was a chance of wet leaves on the pavements (I also don’t like wet leaves, but I don’t dislike them as much as I dislike ice). I’m not sure if I picked up this fear from him, or if it’s just encoded into my DNA – I’d like to think it’s the latter, because then I have an excuse for my ‘eccentricity’.
Anyway, this is playing on my mind because we woke up this morning to an icy-looking mess outside the house. I have to make my way up to the train station later to take a trip into Dublin, which I’m quite looking forward to – if I could get a hovercraft to take me from my house to the train, that is. I’m not joking when I say that the ten-minute walk that lies between me and the train station platform has been giving me palpitations for the last hour and a half. In recent years, Ireland suffered the worst winters I’ve ever experienced, and for four months in 2010 and 2011 I was like Scott of the Antarctic, expecting polar bears to start camping out in our driveway, unable to go anywhere without my ice-spikes. I really hope that doesn’t happen again – not only because I hate the thought of having to walk on ice, but also because my regular weirdness is enough of a burden on my loved ones as it is. I don’t think they can be expected to cope with my ice-freakery again this winter.
Please tell me I’m not the only one with weird phobias?