Even though I live on the wrong side of the world, one of the things I like to do before I close my eyes is listen to the 0048 Shipping Forecast from BBC Radio 4 (see Horse 1898; also the Shipping Forecast on the BBC website). This is despite the fact that I really really really hate the sea.
That "big blue wobbly thing that mermaids live in" and which covers about 71% of the earth's surface, is a nice place that's out there somewhere; so long as it stays there. As far as I'm concerned, the sea is a horrible place, which is full of bitey things and stingy things and the sea itself is trying to kill you by drowning you.
The sea as far as I'm concerned, can take a flying leap and jump in itself. "Get in the sea!" I say to the sea. The sea isn't a lone culprit though. The sea would be fine it if were made out of rocks. I think that I would quite like to go to the Sea Of Tranquility and drive around in (on?) it for a bit. No. The reason that I hate the sea is because the sea is made out of water and water drowns people; specifically me.
In my slightly more than three and a half decades upon this planet, I have travelled in aircraft which are no safer than a packet of chewing gum with wings, fractured bones, had surgery on tendons, been punched in the face, been involved in motor accidents, struck by lightning, been in hostile countries that have questioned my passport and have been ill enough that I thought my skin was creeping. I have worked for government agencies, banks, a furniture factory, an abattoir, the courts, the military, the police as well as private enterprise. I would be perfectly happy to jump out of a working plane and I have stood in places that the public is not normally allowed to go, including on top of the sails at the Sydney Opera House. My tolerance for pain is above average; my ability to cope with stress is also I think, above average.
Yet the two things which I can not do, is bear the sight of blood and I can not swim.
One of the benefits about working at Australia's Wonderland (which was a defunct theme park in Sydney's west which has long since been replaced with an industrial estate) was that after I'd spent hours walking around as Yogi Bear or Huckleberry Hound, I could go on all the rides I wanted to for free. Big roller coasters such as the Bush Beast or the Demon were fine, as were the rides which were designed to make you spray your lunch all over the inside of them, like the flip over upside down pirate ship ride or the whirl 'til you hurl Tasmanian Devil or Funnel Web. I could not stand to go on many of the water rides though, for fear of drowning.
One fateful day in December, which is traditionally the month in which people in Australia start hurling themselves into the sea at every opportunity because the temperatures rise into the mid 500s and everything and everyone slowly melts into oblivion, I decided to take a ride on a ride called "The Mountain Cascades"; which was basically a quarter mile of water slide with giant inner tubes in.
The ride lasted about 40 seconds and whilst gravity drew me down the cascades as a passenger, I was happy enough but as soon as I reached the end, I was unceremoniously dumped into a pool of water. Of course most people queue up to see pictures of themselves being flung into the air before they hit the water, but because I couldn't swim and still can't to this day, I did my best impression of a six foot rolled up carpet being dumped into a river. I might remember someone yelling at me but I don't know if that was because they were yelling at me to get out of the water so that the next rider wouldn't hit me, or because they were yelling at me on the side of the pool because they were waiting for me to regain consciousness.
In short, I hate water park rides, I hate public pools, I have a severe dislike of people's pools in their backyard, I hate creeks, rivers and the ocean. Don't expect me to have a nice time at the beach either. An appropriately safe distance for me to be from the water's edge is about three miles and in the Rose, Crown & Thistle with a copy of the newspaper and depending on the time of day, with either a long black coffee or a tall black stout.
Despite various attempts in both primary and high school by well meaning teachers, I could not be taught how to swim. Personally I think that this is because I was scientifically bred over fifty generations to live in a land of eternal rain and exquisite complaining but through historical accident, I've ended up in a land which has been hidden in the summer for a million years.
I could have died on the fields of Culloden, been gassed on the Western Front, or I would have even accepted to be instantly vapourised by an atomic bomb, over spending a week at the beach. The very thought, I find irksome.
I completely understand the type of terror that people being waterboarded must feel. Having almost drowned on the odd occasion myself, I think I kind of have an inkling of what that must be like. Of course, now that you know this and you happen to be from a terrorist organisation who is intent on extracting information from me, please know in advance that I am a total wuss and if being waterboarded, I would confess to everything that everyone in the world has ever done. I'd instantly rat everyone out, I'd divulge every official secret that I knew but they would be useless because you'd have no way of knowing what the truth was because I'd be rambling like a total madman.
FDR said in his Inaugural address upon becoming President of the United States in 1933 that "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance" and whilst that's mostly true, there are lots of rational and irrational things to be afraid of. In my case, it just happens to be the fear of drowning and I think that although it is quite a lot neurotic, I don't mind. In 99.9% of my life, it's a non-event.
My dislike of blood though. That's not so much a fear but a violent psychosomatic reaction. Seeing blood just makes my colon want to twist itself into pieces and my stomach want to empty its contents on the floor in a hurry.