Dom Joly: Feel the fear

'I am ridiculously, seriously unnerved by spiders'

'I am ridiculously, seriously unnerved by spiders' - Credit: Archant

Phobias are irrational, of course… except when it comes to spiders

My wife is scared of cows. She has Bovinophobia (I’m not sure that’s the exact term but it sounds good).

“How can you be scared of cows?” I’ll ask her in a slightly mocking manner.

“Do you know how many people are killed by cows every year?” She’ll reply. Before I can reply that I suspect the number is no more than three and that these unfortunates are simply nature’s way of weeding out mistakes, she is off with her cow facts.

“Five hundred people a year. I read it on the internet. People think cows are docile and sweet but they are not and they attack in herds like killer gangs. Something must be done.” I normally give up at this stage and simply nod and look concerned until the diatribe is over. There is nothing I can do. My wife thinks cows are killers and that is that.

Meanwhile my teenage daughter is terrified of our chickens (Alektorophobia). I don’t think that she thinks that they can kill but she does get seriously freaked out by them. I often wonder whether I should force her to watch Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds as a kind of shock therapy. It could go either way, She might be totally cured of her feathered phobia or… she might never step out of the house again. It’s a tricky one.

My boy and I share the same phobia – spiders (Arachnophobia). I am ridiculously, seriously unnerved by them. I hate the sight of them, the way they scuttle, the way they just appear above your bed at night and threaten to drop into your open mouth while you sleep…

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When I went into the jungle (technically a rainforest) on I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here, they asked me beforehand if there was anything that I was scared of? I wasn’t falling for that trick. I wasn’t going to give the torturer the torture I most feared. I told them that I had a pathological fear of hot food and comfy pillows (Paradisephobia). They weren’t impressed but I didn’t crack. On my very first night in the jungle they stuck me in a little shack and basically threw everything into it – snakes, rats, cockroaches (so many cockroaches) and… spiders. Predictably I froze with fear and they howled with delight (the producers, not the spiders). They knew that they had found my room 101.

I should have thought about it more. I should have done some prep work. Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, a lady perhaps not best known for her brains, did just that. Before she went onto the show she visited London Zoo where she took part in their phobia course that apparently guarantees that, after two days, you will be holding the object of your fear in your hands without any problems. This would obviously be tricky for my wife, a short woman, as cows are very heavy but it could definitely work for me.

I have just accepted an offer to do something very extreme on a TV show for charity (something I really don’t like to talk about). I can’t tell you too much but it involves me having to fend for myself for a long period of time somewhere very remote and tropical. I had no problems in accepting the offer until I found out that there are tarantulas on the location. The very idea sends a cold drop of sweat down my back. Apparently they live in holes and come out to attack at night and… I’ve got to stop thinking about it.

To calm myself down I try to imagine my wife facing a herd of sweet, lazy-eyed cows. They look at her in a slightly disinterested manner. She draws herself into a defensive posture. She shouts at the cows.

“I must warn you that I am fully trained in martial arts and can kill a cow with one punch.” The cows ignore her and return to the sweet grass they were munching on.

If that doesn’t work I picture my daughter being chased around the courtyard by playful chickens.

Once I calm down, I realise that I must deal with my fear. Phobias are irrational. The real danger lies in me being stuck somewhere remote with another celebrity monster like ‘Dr’ Gillian McKeith. Now that really is the stuff of nightmares.

Follow Dom Joly on Twitter: @DomJoly