I will admit to having two phobias: Barry White & spiders.
To this day I am haunted by the words of a local radio DJ who proclaimed:
"Ah that was the smoooooth smooooth sounds of Mr Barry White, I'm sure you'll agree - he really does make love to your ears."
Like me, you probably find the mental image of an aroused Barry White humping the side of your head disturbing, even if, by some quirk of fate, you've never pictured it before now. Personally it's something I perhaps dwell on too much. Often I wake in the night screaming "NO BARRY WHITE! I BEG YOU! TAKE IT OUT! NO MORE!!!" and my wife has to remind me that Barry died some 10 years ago and it is statistically improbable he has somehow cheated death, risen from the grave and travelled to a small village in Kent to spend his evenings ear raping.
"Why are you telling us this James?" I hear you ask, well I just wanted to share this rare phobia with you in order that you fully appreciate the horror of my Sunday morning...
The day did not start well: I awoke from a Barry White nightmare to the sight of a penis scant inches from my face - sadly it was not my own.
But at least it wasn't Barry's.
"Please don't point that at my face son, it's not polite."
"But Dad, I really need a wee!"
"Okay. If anything that makes it less polite."
"But I really need to go!"
"Then go to the toilet?"
"I took my pants off but ... Dad... there's a spider!"
Reluctantly I got out of bed - it was 4.12am.
Now, I'm not great with spiders, I'm of the school that get's a pint glass, traps it, slides something sturdy underneath and releases it into the garden - only for it to return, all smug, a bit later on in the day.
Deep down I know this method is pointless: it's what my wife calls the "Abu Quatada method" - being unreasonably reasonable to something incapable of showing you the same courtesy. But I can't bring myself to kill them, that's way too much contact. And anyway I'm not sure I could've killed this spider, this spider was massive, like someone had chopped off a werewolf's hand and left it, twitching, on the toilet lid. I couldn't get the image of Barry White with eight legs out of my head, it was like my phobias had decided to get together and have a child. Yes, it had the usual eight hairy legs but this was the first spider I'd ever seen with buttocks. No wonder my four year old was scared. I was scared. It was the sort of spider that you have to keep your eyes on, to look away, even for a moment, was unthinkable - who knew what it might do? Further twitching? I could feel it looking at me. I fully expected it to growl at me.
"Erm how badly do you need to go?" I whispered to my son,
"Really badly" he replied, hopping from foot to foot.
I put my hand on my son's shoulder and squeezed it reassuringly.
"Leave this to me"
Showing the appropriate respect, I backed away from the toilet and tiptoed downstairs to fetch THE BIG BASTARD SPIDER VASE: a glass vase reserved for extreme situations like this, when the normal pint glass diameter just won't do.
I crept back upstairs, a part of me, probably my cowardice gland, hoped that the spider had trundled off somewhere dark and out of my jurisdiction - but there it sat: one leg tapping the toilet lid, like it was listening to music.
I shuffled closer.
The leg stopped twitching! Was it getting ready to pounce? Was I still having a nightmare? Should I have put some underpants on?
Slowly, oh so fucking slowly, I inverted the vase and got down on my knees. Breath held, poised above the staring monster, heart crashing in my chest I reached out and...
"DAD DO SPIDERS SMELL?"
"JESUS - Don't shout! You ... might frighten it!"
I stood back up, grateful for the respite. The spider resumed it's leg tapping.
"Do they smell Dad?"
I could've lied at this point, convinced my son that having eight legs meant that spiders, in fact, had four arses and so, yes they smell. But I don't like lying to him, so I said.
"No son, that was me - sorry."
"Oh, that's ok Dad, can you hurry up?"
I got back down on my knees, beads of sweat forming on my brow. Then it MOVED!
Or, more accurately, it rotated, slightly.
I backed away, could feel it glaring at me.
I passed the big vase to my son
"Here" I whispered, "have a wee in this."
He looked at me.
"It's ok" I whispered "I won't tell Mummy. It will be our little secret."
As if I had summoned her, my wife suddenly walked into the bathroom, read the situation in a second, scooped up the monster and released him out of the window.
Back in bed a few minutes later I thanked her for not killing the Barry White spider, for using my Abu Quatada method.
"James," she purred "I threw Barry out of a second floor window, in human terms that's like being thrown off the Empire State building, we won't be seeing him again."
And with that she was asleep again: my first, my last, my everything.