In a flap

So what have I been up to over the last week? In a word, recovering.

The thing is, I have this weird phobia. As far as I know, my phobia doesn't have a name, so why don't I give it one? I'll call it flapophobia: I can't stand animals flapping around in a blind panic near me. I'm talking about moths and birds basically. I don't like it at all. It scares the shit out of me.

Not that I'm scared of moths and birds, you understand. Far from it, I think moths and birds are really cool. It's just the flapping I can't abide. I'm afraid that, in their panic, they might crash into me and get hurt. I think it's the thought of hurting them that's really behind my phobia. Well, that's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

Which is why I had such a terrible shock last Sunday. I got out of bed at the usual time, opened the bedroom door, and heard a crow cawing loudly nearby. Hearing crows cawing is not unusual—we have a pair nesting in one of our chimneys at the moment—but this caw had a very definite echo to it, as if the bird was in a confined space, like our hallway, say.

So I decided to deal with the situation in the best way I knew how: I went and woke Jen and told her that we had a crow in the hallway, explaining that it must have fallen down the chimney. Jen knows all about my phobia, so she sighed and got out of bed, and the two of us tip-toed down the stairs, with me, rather surprisingly, at the front. When I got near the bottom of the stairs, I looked very carefully up and down the hallway. There was no sign of any crow, so I took another step forward, and all hell broke loose:

The crow had been hiding in a dark corner near the bottom of the stairs, and hadn't heard us coming. Suddenly, there was a terrified, cawing mass of feathers flapping about my head. Well, there was for one second at least, after which I doubled up into a tiny ball, let out a low howl, and barged past poor Jen back up the stairs. I'm not kidding, I'd never had such a fright in my life. My heart was literally pounding in my chest, and my upper body was shaking uncontrollably.

Happy KettleWhile I was giving it the Tippi Hedren's upstairs, Jen, with great efficiency, grabbed my fleece jacket from the banister, threw it over the crow, picked the bird up, released it though the patio door, and put the kettle on.

My heart rate returned to normal about two hours later. The shaking stopped about five minutes ago.

Richard Carter

A fat, bearded chap with a Charles Darwin fixation.


  1. So, are you assumong that there is someone reading this who would not know that?...Shame on you!

  2. You've been such a role model to me in the short months I've been following your blog. But like all things you put on a pedestal...they get knocked off! You didn't mention whether you screamed like a big girlie (I'm guesssing you did).There's no point in calling it a phobia and expecting sympathy and supportANDthere's no point in saying your worried about hurting the creatureJust hand your manbadge in at the door on your way out.

  3. Keith, I am not proud of what happened, and I am not going to try to defend my actions (or, rather, my inaction). But no, in answer to your question, I did not scream like a big girlie; like I said, I let out a low howl. Having said that, I have noticed that, in moments of great shock, big girlies also tend to let out low howls rather than stereotypical screams. I made a sort of HUUUUUUUUUUUUUUR! noise. In no way could that be misconstrued as a scream.

  4. It could be construed as a well-known song along the lines of...

    "Liz HUUUUUUUUUUURley is a very fine GUUUUUUUUUUURlie..."

    Have you got the bird shit out of the fleece yet?

  5. Did I ever tell you about my experience with a screech owl?

    Perhaps you could reprise it for the edification of your readers

  6. Are you sure you didn't go "Huun- Huur-Tu?

    Go on, explain that tenuouscomment to the un-converted!

  7. Dear Un-converted,

    Huun- Huur-Tu are a bunch of Tuvan throat-singers who recorded with Frank Zappa shortly before he died.

    I have someZappaless Tuvan throat-singing in my CD collection. It is extremely odd. I also have some Buddhist drummers, which is pretty similar in terms of oddity, but completely different in terms of technique.

  8. I know. Even my muse (a plastic triceratops bought from an Oxfam shop) is looking at me with reproach. On a brighter note, my bird table is more fun than the TV at present: to watch 14 recently fledged starlings kicking the shite out of each otherfor first dibs at the cheap porridge oatsonly to be interrupted by a huge crow crash-landing into their midst is a joy. Lots of sparrows, finches and blue tits nipping in to get their calories, too. There was a ring-neck dove, too but a raptor did for that: too fast for me to get an ID.

  9. Totally uncanny... I also used to have a plastic triceratops. I kept it on top of my computer screen at work, and referred to it as my 'monitor lizard'. I eventually gave it away to a colleague's daughter, who happened to visit the office and took a shine to it.

    As to your unidentified raptor, my bet is that it was one of these.

  10. I have the same phobia, by the way. If there's more than one person who has it, it ought to have a real medical name, I reckon.

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