FDR once said, “we have nothing to fear but fear itself”; growing up and being pushed in a buggy across Wandsworth Common in the early ‘60s, I developed a pathological and irrational fear for one particular telegraph pole.
I’ve since acquired other fears: birds: it’s why Rod Taylor got the lead in the Hitchcock classic. And thunder: if God had furniture, because He is God, He’d have someone move it around for Him. Quietly.
There was a café on Wandsworth Common, in front of which stood this odd-looking (in my mind) telegraph pole; I could not go past it without shouting, screaming and, literally, throwing my toys out of the pram (Sooty never got so dirty than on these trips). My perambulating relatives never reached the café as I believed I would be sucked into some electrical void, ending up inside an Earl Grey tea bag in the café’s industrial tea urn.
On my way to the café, we’d pass hundreds of other telegraph poles, but this one, in front of the café, had at its top, these two eye-like things – the shape of which could have been modelled by Charles Laughton for his screen test for The Hunchback of Notre Dame or something Picasso would have created on a bad day.
This fear may have been the reason I never applied to be a BT engineer (also I haven’t got a head for heights) and, because the Wandsworth Common tennis courts were behind the café, was another reason why I never became Balham’s answer to Emma Raducanu.