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Bottomry: Exorcising Ghosts

20 November 2000
Victor cries mayday.

Bottomry: a good way of getting those searching for maritime loans and insurance to reach upsideclown accidentally. But seriously, folks, I open my heart to you now, and confess that I now can't close my eyes when I wash my hair and face in the shower, for fear that I will be hit by an ocean liner.

How do this turn of events come to pass? Well, I think it starts in about 1981 when I saw Raise the Titanic, a terrible film about Raising the Titanic. Children of the '80s will remember the macabre fascination that ensued when a little yellow submarine (no doubt skippered by Ringo Starr) brought back pictures of the vessel miles down and still full of dead people, which filled the primetime slot for what seemed like weeks, and probably was. I remember not wanting to get off the sofa and put my feet on the floor, just in case the carpet was in fact made of water, and I would sink without trace.

And then you start learning history: the Mary Rose, the Marie Celeste, the Lusitania.

And then it starts turning up on the news: upended keels in stormed tossed seas, fleets of dodgy Greek and Philippino ferries, the Herald of Free Enterprise capsized in the English Channel.

And then there's Titanic, a terrible film about the Sinking of the Titanic. In my face. By the way, if you really must watch loads of innocent people die horribly, watch "A Night to Remember" instead. It's infinitely better, starred Kenneth More and was filmed on Ruislip lido. Boss.

I didn't used to be afraid of the sea: I've lived near it all my life, swam in it, canoed in it. I like to know it's there. Otherwise there's just too much land for any one person to cope with. But it seems that I've progressed from less to more in the realm of unreasonable fears. I don't know much about phobiai, but I'd guess that most people who are afraid of ships are so because they are afraid of the sea. I, however, am afraid of the sea because it has ships on it.

So how does this phobia manifest itself on a daily basis? Mainly in the bathroom. I now can't have a bubble bath without feeling that the bows of an oil tanker are going to come crashing through the external wall. I had terrible trouble crossing the new Vasco da Gama bridge over the Tagus this summer, because it's one of those low-lying structures like they have in the Florida Keys, that bring you right down to steerage level. I'm going to Paris this Christmas, and I'm not sure whether I'll be able to go on Eurostar through the channel tunnel, given that we'll be passing under loads of ferries and cargo boats.

A friend of mine, whom some of you will know as Llew, bought me a copy of my favourite book dating from 1750. A grand gesture. But it will forever be marred by the fact that the accompanying birthday card pictured the "White Star Line: The World's Largest Liner: Southampton/ Cherbourg/ New York". Stunning illustration, from the Robert Opie collection no less, but I'll never forgive him. Bastard.

What am I going to do about my predicament? Nothing. After all, it makes me seem a bit more interesting. And this is what phobiai are all about really, isn't it? Boring bitches terrified of arachnids because in fact they can't be bothered to get up off their fat sofas to open the window, middle-aged men styling themselves as agoraphobes because they don't have enough friends and there's something good on the tv. Obsessive compulsives: they're not ill, they need to wash their hands so often because they grow their nails long and scratch their arses instead of wiping them. Honest.

Go on, then, sort me out, get me on a ship. It's about bloody time.


Previously on upsideclown


Current clown:

18 December 2003. George writes: This List

Most recent ten:

15 December 2003. Jamie writes: Seven Songs
11 December 2003. Dan writes: Spinning Jenny
8 December 2003. Victor writes: Rock Opera
4 December 2003. Matt writes: The Mirrored Spheres of Patagonia
1 December 2003. George writes: Charm
27 November 2003. James writes: On Boxing
24 November 2003. Jamie writes: El Matador del Amor; Or, the Man who Killed Love
20 November 2003. Dan writes: Rights Management
17 November 2003. Victor writes: Walking on Yellow
13 November 2003. Matt writes: Disintermediation
(And alas we lost Neil, who last wrote Cockfosters)

Also by this clown:

8 December 2003. Victor writes: Rock Opera
17 November 2003. Victor writes: Walking on Yellow
27 October 2003. Victor writes: Our Tune
6 October 2003. Victor writes: Sucking face (in a public place)
15 September 2003. Victor writes: You got any ID?
25 August 2003. Victor writes: Blood on the Boulevard
4 August 2003. Victor writes: In (paren)theses
10 July 2003. Victor writes: Island Fling
19 June 2003. Victor writes: Back (back) and forth (and forth)
2 June 2003. Victor writes: 300 clowns, 13 eight-year olds
12 May 2003. Victor writes: The swings and roundabouts of outrageous fortune
21 April 2003. Victor writes: ...just sitting there quietly contemplating suicide
31 March 2003. Victor writes: Victoria
6 March 2003. Victor writes: Relevant experience
17 February 2003. Victor writes: You will eat chips and go nowhere
27 January 2003. Victor writes: A bushy fish for fishy Mr Bush (after Juvenal)
6 January 2003. Victor writes: The Accidental Voyeur
16 December 2002. Victor writes: Gripper goes bang
25 November 2002. Victor writes: Bediquette
4 November 2002. Victor writes: Where have all the spastics gone?
14 October 2002. Victor writes: An Immodest Proposal
23 September 2002. Victor writes: Fastscan masterplan
2 September 2002. Victor writes: Dry Humping Social Club
12 August 2002. Victor writes: Beat the Mongol
22 July 2002. Victor writes: What life is not
1 July 2002. Victor writes: Stupor heroes
6 June 2002. Victor writes: Dry
13 May 2002. Victor writes: Muppet Suite
18 April 2002. Victor writes: gingermingeninja
25 March 2002. Victor writes: Sodomize with Pukka Pies
28 February 2002. Victor writes: Dave's problem
4 February 2002. Victor writes: King of the Aisles
10 January 2002. Victor writes: Here come the decorator gimps.
17 December 2001. Victor writes: Make war, not supper.
22 November 2001. Victor writes: Cough
29 October 2001. Victor writes:
4 October 2001. Victor writes: Green Gauges
10 September 2001. Victor writes: Blind weed
16 August 2001. Victor writes: Snout!
23 July 2001. Victor writes: You're not going to put this in a clown are you?
28 June 2001. Victor writes: What is a droll?
4 June 2001. Victor writes: Burt Pakamak
10 May 2001. Victor writes: Board to Death
12 April 2001. Victor writes: Tricolon with anaphora?
22 March 2001. Victor writes: Point of View
26 February 2001. Victor writes: Goth's Dinner
1 Feburary 2001. Victor writes: Les Miserables
4 January 2001. Victor writes: Flat-packed furniture
14 December 2000. Victor writes: Deliverance
20 November 2000. Victor writes: Bottomry: Exorcising Ghosts
26 October 2000. Victor writes: Body Art
2 October 2000. Victor writes: Disney must die
7 September 2000. Victor writes: Ice-cream in Offworld
14 August 2000. Victor writes: I like sweets that taste of medicine
26 June 2000. Victor writes: I've seen the future, and it's feathered

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