Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Clowns, Nuns and Halifax

I don’t know about you but I always get unnerved when, while doing the washing up and looking out of the kitchen window, the garden motion lights suddenly come on and there, standing in the middle of the garden, is a clown.

It doesn’t matter however often it happens it always unnerves me.

Pull all the curtains, settle down to watch the telebox or read a book but you can’t help thinking he’s still out there, looking at the house.

Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m over sensitive. Maybe most people just take it for granted and get on with their nights’ entertainment. And I’m too scared to tell my wife incase she does something silly like invite him in. Personally I would rather he played with the garden hose than let him indoors, juggling with the ornaments. (Have you noticed that clowns seem to have a real affinity with water? Just give them a couple of buckets of the stuff…?)

But I have a solution to this phobia and I’ll share it with you…

Think about nuns

Nuns unnerve me more than clowns.

I remember a train journey in Yorkshire once in one of the last of those closed carriages, you know, a door to the outside and a sliding door to the corridor, mesh luggage rack, 5 by 12 inch mirrors above the seats and sunny posters of faraway places like Scarborough and Briglington. Oh, and of course the Communication Cord which is actually a chain that communicates only in the sense that it activates the train’s brakes.

(I once saw a chap who, while standing putting his luggage on the rack, lost his balance and unfortunately clutched this chain. As the train shuddered to an emergency stop literally yards of this chain poured out of the small grip area and he was still trying to push it back in when the conductor arrived, not, to our disappointment, to arrest him but give him a cautionary talk out in the corridor.)

Anyway, I shared this confined carriage with a nun.

When it comes to their attire nuns are the opposites of clowns. Clowns are all bright garish colours with absolutely no sense of fashion. Nuns are just black and white and quite formal in their dress design. Their hoods, however, always remind me of a chap I once saw in an Albrecht Dürer engraving, all solemn and caring a scythe. (Of course I realize you are unlikely to see a nun with a scythe, or indeed any garden implement. They are totally useless when it comes to manual labour so don’t even think about phoning up a nunnery if you want someone out to cut the grass or mend a fence.)

Anyway there I was sat opposite a nun. What’s scarier than sitting with a nun in a railway carriage? Well, sitting with three nuns in a railways carriage. Two of her sisters joined the train at Leeds.

Now there’s not much conversation you can have with a nun, particularly if they are of the Silent Order. So I was sat there, twiggling my thumbs, looking out of the window, making the odd English exclamation about the weather. I tried. “Wow, what a down pour… that’s a heavy rainfall… that will have all the clowns running for shelter” and other everyday exclamations like that.

No response.

After a bit I began to get really unnerved. Have you ever heard of that phrase The Imp of the Perverse? It’s a common tendency, mentioned by Edgar Allan Poe, to do exactly the wrong thing in a given situation. It is the most embarrassing thing you can think of in the circumstances. The absolutely inappropriate thing to say.

And that’s what my brain kept telling me. 'Don’t… DON’T do anything stupid like suddenly standing up and exclaiming – "I have had sex with four women in the last three days!”' Not only is it the very last thing you want to say in front of three nuns… it’s also a complete lie. But then the truth isn’t much better. Standing up and shouting “I haven’t had ANY sex in the last three days!” I think is just as bad.

So there I was, absolutely sweating with nerves that I was going to blurt out something totally inappropriate when fate served me a good turn and before my self-control failed all three nuns ended their journey at Halifax station. (Why they should be visiting Halifax you may know better than I. I personally have never considered Halifax a haven for nuns but then I’ve never understood why Haworth was a recluse for renegade 1960s hippies.)

So there we have it… When next you are unnerved by a clown standing in the centre of your lawn, think it could be worse...

It could be a nun.

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