Sunday, 18 July 2010

Grasping the nettle

Yup. It's a nettle.

Urtica Dioica. It's actually related to the cannabis plant, and if you look at how they grow, you'll see the same growth pattern of two north-south leaves, a bit of stem, two east-west leaves, repeat until fully grown...

I've had a phobia of the things since as long as I can remember. Presumably I got stung when I was little or something. I don't remember any particular incident that caused it, although I do remember early incidents of beig terrified by them.

I climbed through a hole in a fence and climbed partway up a railway embankment, but when I turned back, I found that I'd actually crawled under a looping nettle, and I couldn't get back until some kind soul held it back for me.

I also remember plucking up the courage to touch one. I was about 7 or 8 years old, it seemed to take many many minutes before I managed to quickly touch a very small one with my finger. But I did it. I was so proud of myself. And it didn't even sting me. A couple of days later, I went up Moel Famau with my family and found a big clump of nettles. "Look at this!" I said, and stuck my knee into them. They stung me to buggery. Back to square one.

There are worse things to have a phobia of. They stay in one place, unlike spiders, and living in a town, it's rare that I have to come into anything like close proximity to them. Still, it's had an impact over the years. When I was a child, other children could always generate an extreme response, by picking them and waving them at me. Little fucking shits. I've broken world records scrambling over garden fences to get away from them. I'm highly attuned to their presence, (nettles, not children) and can spot one even when mixed with other foliage. It's extremely rare that I get stung. Last time I did was in the grounds of a derelict house in Ireland, when I was hitching. Big bugger too. I brushed against it in the twilight. I had a bit of a panic attack as a result.

I suppose all phobias are limiting to some degree. It limits my freedom of choice and action. If you have a phobia, of pretty much anything, you know where I'm coming from. If you have no phobias at all, you'd struggle to understand, just as I struggle to understand how anyone can be scared of clowns or sticky labels.

The allotment, of course, has plenty of nettles. They're mainly on the margins, up the top by the compost heaps, but they sprout in the potato beds, and in the unworked bits of the plot. I have to get Bren to deal with them.

Today, I donned a pair of sturdy rubber gardening gloves, and although I didn't actually manage to grasp one, I did manage to touch one. I managed to do this several times. It made me shudder, and I couldn't keep my finger there for too long, but this is the first time I have tried to confront my fear for over 3 decades. I will try to go a bit further next time, maybe.

1 comment:

Colin Stephens said...

Hi Paul. WOW!! At last after 45 years I have found somebody who is just like me. What you descrbed is exactly the same. I don't know where my phobia comes from and I am not affraid of the sting. I just hate the site of them. They make me freeze instantly on the spot. They are everywhere! I have lots of stories about Nettles. It is great to finally know that it is not just me. REGARDS FROM Colin.