It was 1961 when I first discovered my fear of polar bears.
I wasn’t travelling in the footpaths of Oates, Scott or Amundsen – attempting to reach the North Pole before tea-time – I was four years old and I was in Battersea. At this early age I’d still not fully received all my cross-tundra training and was shocked to have been accosted by a polar bear in SW11 – well within the Arctic Circle.
At five, and you’ve not yet played the back end of a pantomime horse attempting to kick-start your thespian career, you can’t comprehend that’s there’s an actual human inside the bearskin.
As well as this new-found fear, it also put me off having taxidermy as a hobby.
The ‘polar bear’ was one of many attractions at the Battersea Fun Fair. Despite the journey taking only ten-minutes from Balham Station, we only went a few times – mainly because of my recently-acquired fear of Arctic fauna; the Water Chute gave me aquaphobia; the Helter Skelter, vertigo and the Ghost Train enabled me to be a regular, if unwilling visitor at the Balham Sketchley’s.
The only place I enjoyed was the small booth (claustrophobia never a problem) in which you could produce a record onto a floppy piece of plastic. My dad and I whistled the theme tune to Supercar.
I’d have been Mike Mercury, only I had a fear of flying. Quite coincidental given, to this day, I still look like Joe 90.