“Asps! Very Dangerous. You Go First.”
Sallah, Raiders of the Lost Ark.
I am, in many ways, a lot like Indiana Jones.
For instance, we both like hats whilst we both dislike Nazis. And, given that Dr Jones is an archaeologist, I’d imagine that he shares my interest in history.
Ok, so it’s been a while since I last had to outrun any giant boulders or fight off an entire truck load of Wehrmacht Commandos. And, to be honest with you, I’ve never been in the presence of demonic spirits with a penchant for melting faces.
There is one particular facet of our make up in which Indy and I are entirely on the same page however. I refer, of course, to snakes.
Snakes, and just typing the word gives me more than a small dose of the heebie-jeebies, are frankly terrifying. To see one on the television, within the pages of a book, or even mentioned as part of a story, sends me rigid with fevered terror.
Quite recently, as my wife and I took our kids to the opening viewing of the new Percy Jackson film in the cinema, did this chilling phobia rear its ugly head as I found myself shivering and having to look away from the screen at the sight of two tiny talking, clearly animated, snakes on the big screen before me.
Yes, you heard me correctly – I’m even scared of animated asps.
And, when you have such a phobia, it’s really quite amazing how often you begin to encounter them, in one way or another. They crop up all the time – particularly when you have a couple of sons in the house. Sons who absolutely love Steve bloody Backshall and his ‘Deadly Sixty’ programme.
Actually, this is a really good show – for the most part. Backshall and his crew (a sort of British version of the late Steve Irwin) are pretty amazing at getting up close to some of the most astonishing animals on the planet – his encounter with a Blue Whale is something to behold. But, given the nature of the show, invariably he will get around to introducing us all to yet another breed of snake for which he will delightedly inform us is capable of killing you about 300 times before you’ve had a chance to say ‘SN…!’
At which point I have to take my leave, asking the kids to let me know when the Hippos are on – Hippos are brilliant, and really ferocious.
In many respects, Indiana Jones plays a role in my fears – the scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark, as he looks down into the Well of Souls, the ever observant Sallah asking:
‘Why does the floor move?’
It was, for the eight year old version of me, watching the film in the Monico for a school friend’s birthday party back in 1981, a prolonged scene of horror that would stay with me forever. I’d describe the scene were it not for the fact that I’d likely faint as I attempted to type it out.
But, while this was a contributor to my fear, it wasn’t the trigger.
That honour goes, fairly and squarely, to Tales of the Unexpected.
It was a Saturday night, about a year or so before the Raiders viewing, staying with my Nan and Bampy for the evening and biding my time until Match of the Day. Nan and Bampy were really lenient with the bed time rules and we (my brother and I) were often allowed to stay up way past our normal time. They also let me eat cornflakes at night, not even worrying about the amount of sugar I heaped onto them.
Nan and Bampy were ace.
I never really liked Tales of the Unexpected, probably because I was only seven at the time and the show really wasn’t aimed at me, although I did like the theme tune. This particular episode featured a man lying in bed, waking up to discover that a poisonous snake was resting on top of him. He couldn’t move and had to play a waiting game for someone to come and hopefully rescue him. I can’t remember the outcome, although I don’t think it was a particularly happy ending, but I do remember the abject horror that flowed into me that night – never to be exorcised. Imagine, having to stay absolutely still as this slithery, dead eyed, legless beast lay atop you, waiting to pounce and…do you know, I rather feel that there may be some double meaning going on here to which the seven year old version of me was unaware. I’d dwell more on it if I could. Unfortunately, I’ve gone rather rigid and unnecessary with fear – fear of a thirty year old TV episode from the creator of Charlie & the Chocolate Factory.
I’m not proud.