Just returned from the next leg of my trip across the Estuary. Have just spent three days walking the marshes of Sheppey, not an easy task for a girl with a phobia of Daddy long legs:
Elmley Marshes 5th October 2014
It is a golden and glorious autumn morning but my heart is full of fear at the miles of horror that lay ahead. It is a sunny day after rain, the absolute worse conditions for me to set out in. I have no idea how I am going to make it across the marshes. Already I can see them, ranks of them, lined up on the pot plants outside the door of Steve, the estate manager house, spindly legs and click clacky wings. It is the height of daddy season, there are at least ten on this very plant, how many more are out there?
As I climb Elmley Hill , the grass shivers with them, the day is warming up, they are feeling perky. One belly flops across the sky in front of me, arms and legs splayed backwards, ‘wheeee,’ it’s whole body seems to say, ‘here I come, for your face.’ I feel the fear rising, the adrenalin levels shooting up, all common sense leaving me as the phobia takes hold. I make myself walk on. I know the view is spectacular from the top of the hill. I must make it, I must go on, because what is the alternative? Run back to the car park and call a cab to take me home?
At the top of the hill daddies leap up around my legs, a leg touches my hand, I squeal and shake it off. I hear rustling in my hair and fling off my hat and sunglasses, jumping around on top of the hill like I have been stung by hot coals, shaking my hair out frantically. ‘I can’t do it, I can’t do it.’ I tell myself. I am on top of the hill with millions and millions of bodies writhing around me and I can’t enjoy the view of the sweep of the Swale around the island and the glass smooth water of Sharfleet Creek, but now I am here I can not just teleport myself elsewhere, I have to get off, I have to walk through them.
‘Look up,’ I tell myself, ‘Look up and enjoy the view, enjoy it Carol, DO NOT LOOK DOWN. You are going to have to do this today. This is likely to be the worst test you are will ever face but you are going to have to face it’
I prepared myself as best I could, tying back my hair, arming myself with my map case and mini tripod and then I walked, because I had to, through clouds and clouds of these creatures, they touched my hands, hit my face, clattered in my hair and I just kept walking I have no idea how.
In the last few weeks people had said I was brave for all sorts of reasons. Brave for leaving my job and going freelance, brave for walking in the countryside on my own, brave for staying at the homes of people I had never met. I knew different, you cannot be brave about things you don’t really fear. I knew out of all the acts of bravery I had supposedly performed, that this, this walking through long grass on an autumns day, facing a creature which had previously sent me into meltdown. This was the only thing that was really brave.