Tim Allen: Three Phobias



Iatrophobia

I always take Ramipril on purpose hourly or between indecent ateliers. 

Blow up the bridges. Block the lane. Barricade the stairs. In the poky suntrap of an office that welcomes guests to the mansion teaching 60’s secretaries to type the gothic tales of cub-journalists Bob Dylan sits suffering chronic telephobia. He cannot change the tune but he can amend the lyrics which theoretically could go on forever in a never-ending tour of God’s waiting rooms. When the phone rings he picks up nervously and says hello this is the wild Rowans and buffeted bays of Connacht speaking.   

Blow up the bridges. Block the lane. Barricade the stairs. A horse drawn gig approaches in the valley and will soon climb the hill getting closer and closer so blow up the birds with the kiss of death and block the badgers with the medicines of moths and barricade the bats in the cellar with the final performances of George Melly and Mark. E. Smith but be sure to be long-gone by the time the physician comes in snorting and sweating more than his horse as he hands his hat to the maid and bounds up the stairs three at a time clutching his 

Gladstone.

This bag is toxic silence but without the solace of leeches.
This bag is a Pandora’s box but without the nuclear deterrent. 
This bag is stuffed with Jack the Ripper magazines but without Gottfried Benn poems.

On arriving in the sickroom the Gladstone takes a deep breath then settles down on the deathbed with a self-satisfied sigh. It stays shut but a miniature portrait of the patient shakes inside its closed brass clasp. The Gladstone is tough inside and out. It’s tougher than you sick dead person. Steel lining lies snug around its compartments where nothing is left lagging in the cladding of rambling shrubbery except a decoy duck with shingles. The doc’s cough is bottled to preserve the room’s brambling bourgeois incoherencies without having to wait in triage picking at a jar of aspic entombing Renfield’s flies that preamble the rebirth of lanes trooping across humped bridges looking for the stairs during ambling country miles of extreme unction or to put it another way to cut open a long story in order to shorten a different one the bag does indeed burst with short stories cut from much longer ones.


Ichthyophobia

I caught herring to harvest your oily pancake here on boat’s insidious altarpiece.

This would be a good morning to cheat the gods. A cold clear day in sun’s sharp shadow. The morning invites images it has no room for which is an omen of good fortune for as long as the gods are looking the other way towards the Jacobin plotters with their weekend flea market scholarships. An image not given elbow room is casual trade selling water features with a bit of foreign brio. Yea this stuff is complicated… as Pam Ayres said: I wish I’d looked after me hard parts.

The invitation is itself the rejection – symbiosis is horror.

The quayside is straight out of a novel. The boats are straight out of the night. After a hair-of-the-dog breakfast the glamour-puss and rough handsome fisherman curve in from the world of therapeutic visualisation to meet a little breathless on the harbour wall. This is the opportune moment for imagining that the day ahead will provide not just for need but for neediness. Some for example need Raymond Queneau. Others need Jacques Cousteau and crave conversation with the drowned witches who live in the row of cottages called Pen-Pal Street, a place where the term pebble dashed means what it says. The fact that the seawall has now become a drawbridge should not be a drawback any more than the scuttled shoes handbags and teeth decorating the aquarium are there for your own amusement, not for palaeontology. 

It’s alright being spare with the details but not positively mean with them. 

When I was small those cottages were worth a bag of chips. Now they equal a beached whale breaching dreams of Britany. Not Britain. And what if they were so-called literary dreams? A Catholic lad’s cultural allowance includes nicking poetic inventories to carry down the ladders and audited levels of pre-Cambrian language whirlwinded by puns through subterranean latitudes into an ecosphere of shrewd philosophical diversion, disabused washrooms and rusty nickelodeons, re-cranked. When dream becomes reality the realisation that the limits of each are the infinity of the other is a real blow so roll with it, bounce up into an uncommon market where the old writing skills can find a job filleting mythological creatures on a great communal slab of granite where generation after generation of toilers had seen out their days. 

There is no such thing as self-sacrifice.


Isopterophobia

In southern orbits peptides terrorise every red orchid pruned hoarded or built inside attachment.

The cemetery is narrow with just enough space for a path and a row of top-to-toe heaps. You enter by one gate and leave by the gate at the far end. That’s why I never caught you up. On every plot there is a blank headstone and to the left of the path a man-high hedge but I am not man-sized so could not see over but I didn’t need to because I knew what was there, the unnerving land of the living and the lots of the crawling wood eaters. On the right behind the graves is another wall but I had no idea what lay beyond it. I did guess though - allotments in which abandoned church organs provided shelter for various little animals through the day and the terminally ill through the night but now I know different. Now that my longed-for celebrity status has caught up with my life I’ve been taken on a tour.

In my first year at Teacher’s Training College in 1970 I lived on-site in a building named after Siegfried Sassoon who recognised me as a fellow poetic talent as did a cool chisel-faced lad called Paul. He dressed in rocker denims and said he had been in The Paramounts, the nascent Procol Harum. He liked me but was very unpopular with the others in the block who never spoke to him because he was an arrogant loner who didn’t give a fuck what they thought. Anyway, he pops-up here because he wrote a really interesting poem about a city in which the mindless and conforming population behave like a colony of ants. I’m not sure what Siegfried’s opinion was of Paul or his poem as he was years ahead of us both and Paul was two years ahead of me as well so I never caught up him with him either.

I returned from the tour with a renewed regard for the land of the living and found myself wearing their trainers. Their city is the largest psychiatric hospital on the planet and every term spent there is a mighty pillar of municipal vim crisscrossed with shafts and corridors and arrows pointing as only arrows can to the total care of the hospital canteen where zest is ground into the most inaccessibly tiny corner of every cake. Somebody has to make the advert for pest control so it might as well be Tony Blair soaked in citric acid and Keira Knightly. Blair’s minions have set-up a marquee as a makeshift chapel of scientology.



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