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funny side of fear 'Just like Billy Connolly, I have lived much of my life in the grip of irrational fear'

From wasps to heights, it doesn't take much to send me over the edge


Billy Connolly recently told how he has been afraid all his life.

Billy Connolly recently told how he has been afraid all his life.

Things like blackcurrant in Guinness give me The Fear

Things like blackcurrant in Guinness give me The Fear


Billy Connolly recently told how he has been afraid all his life.

BILLY Connolly, Caledonian candle of joy and mischief maker supreme, spoke eloquently of late about fear.

The comic, now brutally diminished by Parkinson's disease, has, it transpires, been afraid all his life.

Bill, my oul' mucker, you are not alone.

Apprehension, or its monstrous, corrosive and snarling big brother, terror, revels in making slaves of its victims, incarcerating its prey in reductive psychological shackles.

Your correspondent, somewhat pathetically, spends the greater part of his existence somewhere along the bandwidth of fear between worry and petrified paralysis.

I walk through life under a suffocating cloud of existential angst.

Among the things which reduce me to a quivering jelly: rodents (alive or dead); heights; going over Portobello Bridge on a bus at any speed greater than two miles per hour; all flying insects in possession of a sting; dentists; people who put blackcurrant in a pint of Guinness.


Things like blackcurrant in Guinness give me The Fear

Things like blackcurrant in Guinness give me The Fear

Things like blackcurrant in Guinness give me The Fear

Being the individual on which Shaggy from Scooby-Doo is based tends to be a reductive experience.

Admittedly, a cowardly nature comes with a farcical, absurdist, and frequently humorous side.

My earliest childhood memory is of charging, palpitating, out of Dublin's long gone St Ultan's Hospital the moment a doctor produced one of those ice-pop-type sticks they place on your tongue to have a look an inflamed throat.

I was found, exhausted, unkempt but still running, nine hours later on the Longford-Leitrim border.

Recently, on the way into the city centre to meet friends, I exited the bus half a dozen stops prematurely.

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I would like to say I fled into the November rain because I spotted the wires dangling from the explosive pack on a potential suicide bomber, or because a riot involving machete-wielding thugs erupted on the upper deck.

But no. My surrender to terror was prompted by a solitary wasp - a tiny creature enlarged by my imagination to a salivating T-Rex - entering the vehicle through one of the windows that remain open in Covid times.

Aware that it was irrational and pathetic, I was impotent against the state of panic that seized my being.

And so, quicker than Usain Bolt in an Olympic final, I had hotfooted it down the stairs and leapt, perspiring, breathless and fearing for my life, into the frigid night.

Braveheart has many Celtic cousins. I do not have to undergo a DNA test to confirm I am not among them.

Decades before Google Maps, I stayed up through the night to work out a route to the classroom so roundabout that the closing credits on Coronation Street the night before was my cue to grab the school bag.

I am so scared of heights that I break out in a cold sweat when I stand on my tiptoes.

A long time ago while covering a rugby international in Paris, two colleagues encouraged me to take the elevator ride up the Eiffel Tower. Major, major mistake.

The wheels and pulleys of the ancient contraption that winds up through the bowels of the magnificent lattice Leviathan had barely inched off terra firma when I was lost to a fully fledged, nutter-in-the-house panic attack.

Terror taunted me, its malign propaganda invading every atom of my inner spirit.

Tourists looked on with wonder as this quaking Paddy fell to his knees, eyes closed, hands clamped tight over his ears to shut out the sound of the creaking advance into the heavens.

On a beautiful Gallic evening, sailing towards the summit of the world, I was a palpitating mess, as rattled as one of those hyper-nervous fliers who, upon hearing the cabin crew will shortly pass through with duty-free items, scrambles on a life jacket and assumes the brace position.

It was as if we were back in the French Revolution's Reign of Terror, and I was being frogmarched to the guillotine.

When my time comes, I might be the first human to have hypochondria listed as the cause of death.

The merest growl of wind in my gut is catastrophised as anything from a burst appendix to sepsis to imminent liver failure. An itchy calf means deep vein thrombosis, a blood clot, and an excruciating death within 15 minutes.

Any irritation below the chin and above the navel is self-diagnosed as cardiac arrest.

"Extreme fear," wrote William Shakespeare, "can neither fight nor fly."

To which both myself and The Bard of Avon's fellow Billy could offer a pithy two-word response, the first containing four letters, the second three.

We might, The Big Yin and I, if we weren't so utterly terrified of conversing with ghosts.

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