Tuesday, December 06, 2005


Did you hear that? Someone put the fire out.

Cartoon courtesy of Nicholson of "The Australian" newspaper: www.nicholsoncartoons.com.au

You may recall that I have mentioned before that for as long as I remember I have had an irrational fear of fire. I've always kept a 'safe' distance from BBQ fires and it took me years to get over my nervousness when making chips on the stove in hot oil.
[It didn't help, I suppose, that the first time I made chips I cut the potatoes then left them in water so they didn't go brown while the oil was heating... do you know what happens when you drop water in hot oil? Splutter, pop, splash - now imagine what happens when you dump a big scoop of dripping wet chips in hot oil. Exactly!]

The most ridiculous example of how irrational my fear is occurred around the age of 18 or 19, when I attended a flat-warming party on the 5th floor of a block of flats. There was no furniture in the place and the hosts had decided on a fondue, so they set up 4 fondu pots in one of the rooms. Since there were a lot of people there, we ate in shifts, and once I'd had my fill I moved into the next room, and just after that I heard some kind of commotion. I turned around to see that someone had knocked one of the fondue pots over. I could see the front door from where I stood, but running across the floor between me and the front door was about a 3-inch high flame where the oil had spilled out and was burning on the floor - truly a tiny little streak flame, easy enough to step over to get out and really, it wasn't anywhere near an emergency situation.
But there was NO WAY I was going to be "stepping over" any burning anything, oh no... I started edging towards the window. That's right - 5 floors up and I was getting ready to jump, rather than step over a tiny flame no higher than my ankle.
Daft, I know.
Anyway, they put the fire out and all was well - my sister, who was with me at the time, thought it was hilarious and of course even more so because the first thing I did was light a cigarette to calm my nerves.

So now you may have a small notion of the kind of fear I'm talking about.

And all these years, I have not been able to find a reasonable explanation for my unreasonable fear. Until one day it dawned on me.
There could only be one plausible reason: I must have been Joan of Arc in my previous life - you know, the whole burning-at-the-stake thing!
Yep, that had to be it.

Well, that was it. Until very recently when I wrote a post about Christmas, and my mother left a comment: "P.S. Do you remember when the tree caught fire?"

Er, well, actually no, not really. Nothing past a vague recollection of something she told me once.
So I asked her for the details, and this was her reply:

"Well you see - it all has to do with the fact that your German grandparents liked to remember the old days when they had candles on their Christmas tree. The only thing was that this was an artificial Christmas tree - not a good combination with real candles - especially when nobody noticed how small the candles were getting! Suddenly the tree was alight. Fortunately, Christmas being in the middle of Summer in this part of the world, the sliding door was standing wide open - the tree was dispatched onto the front lawn in great haste and stomped upon. The most disappointing thing about the episode was that most of the beautiful and very delicate tree ornaments which came from Germany many years before, were crushed along with the flames. I wonder if this is the root cause of your fear of fire - come to think of it, it must have been pretty traumatic for you - you must have been all of about 3 or 4 years old. So that's the story."*

So I guess that puts paid to my Joan of Arc theory, huh?!

*Thanks for the contribution, Ma!


Alan said...

That's a funny-looking editorial cartoon you have here! It's cool albeit on fire!

rev. billy bob gisher ©2005 said...

i had everything toasted once except the humans and cats. best thing that ever happened to me, even though i lost everything.

beadinggalinMS said...

Dang it! I was hoping you was Joan of Arc in your previous life LOL.
I too have a fear of fire. Having your house burn down when your little on Valentines Day does not help. It was an electrical fire, so to this day I am a fantic about the lights being on to long then shut off or to many cords in the socket and stuff like that. Plus the furniture store I worked at went up in flames. It was one of the scariest things I have experienced. Flames everywhere, stuff exploding. So I can relate when someone says they have a fear of fire.

word verification nvibhleg--invisible leg LOL :)

Lori said...

Well there goes my mental picture of you as Joan of Arc. (hot chick LOL)

ChittyChittyBangBang! said...

Fires have always fascinated me, even as a child. My mom had to do all she could to keep matches and lighters out of my reach.
I remember once setting fire to an entire veldt behind our house. The fire brigade was called out and it caused quit a commotion on our block. I did what any good fire-starter would do... hid under the bed, waited for the commotion to calm done and pretended as if nothing had happened.

Terri said...

Alan - it's great, isn't it? Wish I could take the credit for it but hey, it suited the purpose.

Rev. Billy-Bob - er, you don't think that was taking the whole spring-cleaning thing a bit far...?

Beadinggal - that is my worst nightmare; I get shivers just thinking about it!

Lori - LOL! hot chick hahaha! Would ya get over it already?! ;-)

Chitty - So I guess being a fireman wasn't really a career choice for you then.

jason evans said...

Does knowing where the fear came from help diminish it now?

Terri said...

Jason - honestly? Not really. Maybe because I'm not 100% convinced that's where it came from. I mean, I don't have a mortal fear of Christmas trees...