As a person who wears jumpers her grandma knits her, I think I can safely say that I know a lot about fashion. Red’s a good colour, right? My favourite is green but try as I might I can’t find a flattering item of green clothing anywhere and I just have to accept that; you either end up looking like an overgrown leaf or a nauseous Smurf.
But really I have very few rules about my own fashion sense; no pink, no spandex, and skinny jeans are the devil’s invention. Finally, I learned the hard way that toggle fastenings are not to be trusted. They may look good, a cute way to pretend you’re Paddington Bear, but they have a fatal flaw that makes them a dangerous choice when compared to zips. It’s really difficult to undo them quickly.
Years ago, back when I was a sullen teenager, I had a thick, black toggle coat for school that successfully hid me from the elements and eyes of my fellow students. I used to wear it as far into the spring and summer months as I could before risking heatstroke, and it was a faithful and beloved item of clothing. Until that fateful Saturday when my parents and I were off on a trip around the Welsh mountains, because rain, cold weather and the threat of hypothermia don’t hold back true idiots.
As usual, my dad and I were waiting around for my mum to get ready, and I was all toggled up and playing a game on my phone as I lounged around. I’d grabbed my coat from the cupboard under the stairs, and anyone who’s read Harry Potter knows what type of creature lurks there. Out of the corner of my eye, just when I’d reached the highest level of Snake I’ve ever accomplished before or since, a movement caught my attention. There, crawling across me like a facehugger from the Alien movies, was a massive house spider.
As usual, when confronted with a spider on my person I exploded with panic. Which is when I discovered that toggles are difficult to undo quickly. Cue what felt like a lifetime of screaming and running around the living room while my bewildered father looked on, until I finally managed to thread through the last toggle, throw off the coat and escape into the kitchen.
People tell me that arachnophobia is irrational, and they might as well add that the sky is blue and grass is green because I didn’t realise that either. It’s improved since my Thailand trip, a country where you have to accept the creepy crawlies if you want to function at all, but overcoming this irrational fear means being faster than the switch that goes off whenever a spider is on me. By the time I’ve realised that it’s just a tiny creature that can’t hurt me, I’ve already torn half my clothes off and woken up the entire house with my terrified wailing.
Then I have to go buy new clothes, and glare at the offered toggle coats, green t-shirts and pink skinny jeans that mock me in every shop.