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I used to be scared of the wind

13 January 2023

When I was 8 years old, I was so scared of the wind that I got into a stranger’s car and asked him to drive me home, just to get out of it.

Every morning before school, I would open the curtains to see if leaves or rubbish were being blown along the street. If I could hear the howl of the wind in the chimney, my throat would tighten and my stomach would begin to churn. “I feel sick”, I would say, and mum would let me stay at home. Why didn’t she make me go to school? Mr Leroy, my teacher, had told her that a lot of 8 year olds develop sudden phobias which go away if they are ignored, so that’s what my parents did.

I don’t remember what happened when I got out of the stranger’s car when it pulled up to our kerb, but I do know that the man took me to our door and spoke to my mum. It makes sense that letting me stay at home to watch tv was preferable to that.

It’s been windy this week, and I have hated it. I had to get the train to London on three of the days, which meant cycling against the wind to the station for the first time in weeks. My knees are creaking as a result and, today, I cycled so slowly back from the supermarket that I nearly fell off my bike. It’s a short, flat ride but my bike is heavy, and I am old.

Running in the wind isn’t as hard as cycling, but no matter what direction I run, the wind is never, ever, behind me. Today, on my day off, I cycled to the gym (why do I hate myself?) so that I could go for a cross-country run. On the bike, the wind was grim. On foot, it was fine. Refreshing, even. I ran from Thorpe Wood, up Ferry Hill and out towards Marholm, then across the public footpath which skirts the Milton Estate to Castor Hanglands and back through Ailsworth and Castor. I love this route in every season. It’s high ground (for round here), so even at its muddiest it’s still a pleasure to run.

The path goes through farmlands and woodlands. Flocks of linnets rose and crossed my path from field to field. A single skylark struggled against a gust of wind, eager to get away from me. Approaching the crossways of two footpaths, the windsock that marks the private air field was blowing horizontal. A long sward of clipped green grass sat temptingly behind the PRIVATE sign. I always think that this airstrip would be a great place to do interval training, though someone would probably shoot me for it.

Back on the Helpston Road, a pheasant scooted across my path, backlit by a weak winter sun. A constant comb of light, shafts which couldn’t break through the clouds, hovered in the eastern sky. As I approached Ailsworth I had to slow to a walk to get my heart rate down, the remains of November’s covid still lurking in my lungs. Before the A47 bridge, birds of prey circled concentrically: red kites on the left, a buzzard on the right.

I was surprised by the January colours on this run. I was slow, and had lots of time to look at the landscape. The ploughed fields looked purple, but shards of hay were glowing orange in the furrows. So often, colours seen at a glance reveal themselves to be a combination of two quite different ones, in close up.

This week I went to a training session that’s been on my mind. It was on polarity thinking, something that can be used for ongoing problems that have two correct answers which are interdependent (eg, self and others; continuity and change). There are upsides and downsides for each pole, and the aim of polarity thinking is to stay in the upsides of both poles, without sinking into the downs.

As I was running, I was thinking about being scared of the wind. Was it the wind that was frightening, or its effect: how it made me feel? The swirl and howl of a gale raised a panic in me that I couldn’t deal with. Indoors was safety from that. Outdoors was risk. I’m not frightened of the wind any more, but I am scared of heights, stairs that you can see through, and really big dogs. Staying inside my house would keep me safe from all of those, but stop me from doing almost anything. You never know when an architect is going to put one of those staircases in.

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