Shark Tale

When I wrote up my trip to Sea Life, there was one minor detail I neglected to mention: my powerful phobia of water and its inhabitants. 

If I cast my mind back far enough, I can pinpoint the exact corridor of The Aquarium of The Lakes in which my sister threatened to push me into a tiny water feature. It was a miniature waterfall without so much as a tadpole, but I was immediately terrified of being in it. 

I forgot about that incident until I was around 6 years old, and watching Chuckle Brothers before a swimming lesson. In that episode Paul and Barry went fishing, and pulled out a pike. The instant I saw its staring, unfeeling eyes and needle like teeth, my blood ran cold and I formulated my plan. Sure enough, I walked into the my swimming lesson and pulled off an Oscar winning performance, grabbing my leg and crying until my teacher decided it was best that I didn't get into the water. I couldn't have agreed more.

white buoys lined up in a spanish harbour

After that, I made the association between the swimming pool and my bath at home. They were both essentially tanks of water, and my little mind decided that the former was home to a pike, the latter to a crocodile. Bath times quickly became tense and uneasy, as my vivid imagination started to show me how dark it could be. When we moved house I left the crocodile behind, but the seed was planted in my mind: water = danger.

My foolishness could be forgiven when I was 6, but when I was around 12 the fear came back with a vengeance, and although I was now old enough to see sense, my phobia was always louder and stronger. We had a shower cubicle with white tiles and clusters of grey, including one behind me, and the temperature dial was a horizontal bar. I quickly convinced myself that the tiles were great white sharks and the dial was a hammerhead. Typing it out, I can laugh at myself, but my chest tightens if I imagine setting foot into that cubicle again. 

I would sing, I would play music, I would talk to myself, but even with those distractions it would sometimes become too much to bear, and I would lurch out of the shower with shampoo suds stinging my eyes. My imagination always had an answer. There is absolutely no feasible way on this Earth that a great white shark could find itself in a freshwater domestic shower or chlorinated pool in England. Even if I swam out into the Great Barrier Reef, the chances of meeting one would be slim, but I was still paralysed with fear every time I took a shower. 

Eventually my parents redid the shower and the great white tiles were gone, but every time I am near a large amount of water my mind will still hurtle to the wildest conclusions and conjure up any and all kinds of horror. I would never, ever swim in a pool or the sea by myself (if there are other swimmers, they'll get eaten first) and yet strangely, I'm kind of determined to cage dive and meet great whites up close one day, providing it's a safe experience for them. 

You see, I have no hatred towards the sharks, I have a huge respect for them and I know that attacks are incredibly rare, but they are still killing machines, albeit fascinating ones. Their eyes roll back to avoid impact at the moment of bite, their jaws are lined with rows of serrated, steak knife teeth, and the pores on their faces are filled with jelly that vibrates when prey is in radius. I reckon that if I was close enough to see those and survive to tell the tale, I'd never be scared of anything again.

Do you have any silly fears?



  1. It's not silly love, it seems like it has really shook you up over the years. I am terrified of hights I literally freeze and feel like I am going to vomit. Xxx


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