Wear sunscreen


A friend recently posted a link on Facebook to the ‘wear sunscreen’ graduate advice speech written by Mary Schmich and later turned into a cool Baz Luhrman song. The whole speech is great but one line really stuck out for me as I re-read it this week:

“Do one thing every day that scares you.”

The original point of this blog, although it may have sidled off into a different dimension or two now, or at least the basis for the title, was not to let fear hold me back from trying new things. Not to get to my death bed and be full of regrets for the things I was afraid to do. Or rather, it is my fear of being full of regrets later in life that motivates me not to let other fears hold me back from taking advantage of opportunities now.

On an overall scale I feel like I’m doing my best to live up to this grand philosophy. I’ve not been afraid to take risks with work or moving to new places, although I accept I’m at a point in my life where it is easier for me to do this than it would be if, say, we had kids or our parents weren’t well or for any number of other reasons.

But I was thinking about this line and how often I actuallyy incorporate that philosophy into my daily life. I’m not always great at this. There are many times when I’m ensconced in the comfort of my flat on a weekend and I might pass up spontaneous opportunities that arrive to try new things as I dig deep into nest-like mentality and fear the possibility of something out there being less enjoyable than the cosiness of being in here.

However I am a lot better at trying new things than I used to be and this week has been a good week for that.

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to try and complete a half-marathon this year but I became disheartened when the two half-marathons I had intended to train for I realised I wouldn’t be available to participate in, owing to immovable factors like a wedding and work (for lack of money reasons the races needed to be in the local area). I stopped running in January and felt a little sad at the thought that I wouldn’t achieve my 2015 goal.

Then, last week, I discovered another half-marathon in the Geneva area in September. Having not been training regularly since January, and worried by the challenging time limits for completion, I ummed and ahhed about whether I should go for this or not. On Sunday I decided to quit worrying about why I shouldn’t do this and just sign up. Overthinking can often let fears take charge, so a bit of impulsiveness now and then is good for you!

Now I am motivated to train again, on the internet I found a proper training schedule for beginners and I’m determined to give it my best shot. It may be that on the day I fall behind the time limits and my attempt isn’t officially recorded but if I can still complete the course, even if in my own time, this will still be an achievement. Even if I don’t complete the course at least giving it a go is something to be proud of. I’m not running to win or compete against others, I want to do this for me.

On Monday I was presented with another intimidating notion, that of auditioning for a play with a local drama club. I have wanted to get back into acting for some time, having enjoyed this at school, but although I tried for a couple of things at university (mostly unsuccessfully) I have been lacking in confidence to put myself out there and audition for anything since.

Nonetheless, as part of my realisation that a large part of acting like a grown up is just that, I thought I would start with the acting before I got to the audition. I decided to act the part of someone who isn’t afraid to audition.

I wasn’t expecting to get a part in a four person cast so lacked any real fear during my audition. I enjoyed reading lines in a couple of scenes and I took on the director’s request to read in an American accent without flinching. And although, ultimately, I wasn’t cast in the play I enjoyed the process and was gratified to be told by one fellow auditionee that he thought I was the best actress, and for others to say my American accent was really good (years of watching American tv shows clearly paid off).

After the audition I expected to be rejected, not because I failed but because the director showed a clear preference for a number of actors. However, it still stung a bit this morning to officially hear I had not been cast. But that’s okay, sometimes putting myself out there is going to smart a little bit and I suppose it is this that makes it scary.

The idea of failing at something can often be used as a valid excuse not to try. Not trying can save you from a bit of hurt every now and again but the not trying can also prevent you from finding out who you are and what you are capable of, from bringing you closer to success on future attempts.

Whilst I wouldn’t advocate doing things only because they frighten you, no way would I want to have some up-close experience with a room full of tarantulas, but where fear holds you back from things you do want to do then that’s where it becomes a problem, if you let it. And I have no intention of letting my fears get in the way of who I want to be.

I wonder what potentially frightening challenges next week might have in store for me? I hope I’ll be brave enough to face them.




The food shaming incident


Kids can be mean, we all know this and have probably all both been a) the subject of a kid’s meanness and b) one of the kids being mean at some point in our lives.

Let me tell you the sad tale of the day I was subject to the meanness of other kids and shamed for asking for a hula-hoop. For those of you that aren’t British or are otherwise unfamiliar with the snack, hula-hoops are a kind of crisp, they are little potato rings you can fit on your fingers, so both fun and edible!

First things first, you need to understand that I have always liked my food. I’ve also never been a fussy eater and like to try most things, there is perhaps a handful of foods I don’t really like but even those I can eat if the occasion calls for it and it would be rude to decline (if you are wondering these include: fruit cake, normal trifle, marzipan and horseradish).

I come from a family that likes food and would rush to eat our dinners first in the hopes of being first in line for second helpings of whatever was on offer. Trying to distract family members at dinner-time so that you could steal what was on their plates was quite routine. But woe and behold if you got caught stealing someone else’s grub!

Once when I came home late after some activity my parents were out, but my brothers were there to ‘look after’ me. As I sat down to eat my reheated dinner my brothers sat either side of me and the eldest would sneakily take a piece of pasta from one side and as I turned to him in a rage my middle-older brother took a piece from the other side. Doubly mad at the middle-older brother, for joining in the food theft game and for copying the eldest brother in doing so, I stuck a fork in his head. Don’t worry I didn’t commit fratricide at an early age, I didn’t even draw blood, I did teach both of my brothers a valuable lesson and neither has stolen food from me since, or at least not that I know of.

Please don’t take this as an indictment of my parents, we weren’t squabbling over food because there wasn’t enough to go round, or we only got fed once a week and were left to fend for ourselves from scraps elsewhere for the other 6 days of the week. We were just a family who liked to eat.

As I do with almost everything, I tend to assume that everyone else is just like me until confronted with evidence to the contrary. Therefore I assumed it was perfectly normal to show a healthy love of all things edible and to try to get as much as possible.

Capture d’écran 2015-04-09 à 15.02.33The Hula-hoop incident must have happened when I was about nine or ten. This was before, or perhaps the start of when, I became conscious of body image, a desire to look like girls in SmashHits! Magazine and a realization that being yourself can at times be dangerous.

We were eating lunch indoors and I went to the bathroom, when I returned one of the girls, let’s call her Tanya although that’s not her name, opened up a bag of salt and vinegar hula-hoops and one of the other girls around the able asked if they could have one, quickly followed by another girl and then another. When everyone else had asked for a hula-hoop I naïvely asked if I, too, could have a hula hoop? At which point all the other girls, I think there were eight of us around the table, burst out laughing!

It turned out people, or Tanya at any rate, had noticed that I had a habit of asking to try other people’s crisps and they thought it would be amusing to lure me into a false sense of security by following their lead in asking for a crisp, before cruelly pushing me into their devil pit of mockery!

There’s really nothing worse than having other people point out to you habits that you had, up until that point, been blissfully unaware of, but are now unable to forget. Since that day I never ask anyone, with very few exceptions, if I can try their food. If people voluntarily offer me their food I go into automatic child survival mode, sense a trap, and will usually decline at least once or wait to see how others respond before I judge whether or not I can indulge myself without fear of ridicule.

Probably none of those girls remember their lunchtime prank. It wasn’t exactly the worst thing kids have ever done, and undoubtedly I’ve indulged in worse to others, and they probably weren’t aware of the effect it had on me. But that was the first time I felt shamed for my eating habits and became conscious that certain behaviours, i.e. showing an appreciation of food, were not okay. Worst of all though I never even got to eat that bloody Hula Hoop!

An appetite to appreciate anomalies


I read with interest the news story of the three young students (two Dutch and one British) who on finding themselves stranded in Turkey for eight days, survived by eating insects. I thought the piece was interesting not for the regaling of the student’s survival plight but that the headline focus on insect-eating implied this was the real shocker of the incident.

One thing I’ve never been afraid of is trying new foods. I remember my parents being impressed enough to tell all their friends (one of whom’s children had spent several years only eating baked beans, smash and chocolate mousse) that I had eaten squid kebab whilst on a family holiday, when I must have been about eleven or twelve. To me it wasn’t that big a deal but after that I probably reveled in and strove to live up to my reputation as a gastronomic dare-devil.

Like most people I do judge edibles on how they look and allow appearances to affect what I think of certain questionable foodstuffs, but preconceptions wont stop me from trying these. So I’ve never really understood why people are squeamish about eating certain things.

Capture d’écran 2015-01-22 à 16.45.30When I was in Cambodia in the summer of 2013 (gosh, that sounds so much longer ago now that it’s 2015), the guidebook I read in advance informed me that fried tarantulas were a common snack and that insects were often on the menu. The though of eating creepy-crawlies was definitely a bit weird, and still is, but I’m not really sure why.

Yes, they are a bit gross to look at with sticky-out eyes, feelers and too many legs but prawns are just as disgusting and have you ever really looked as a mussel as you are eating it? Yet these sea-insects, if you will, are eaten by many who would be horrified by the thought of eating crispy noodles with red tree ants or a nice bowl of fried crickets.

Eating bugs is definitively a cultural thing and I suppose that because, unlike prawns and mussels, they are so readily available in the dirt around us this makes them less desirable in the way that caviar is probably valued more for its seeming rarity. Eating insects is also often associated with poverty and starvation and that might be where part of our preconceived distaste comes from.

Generally my food-philosophy is to try anything once and I wouldn’t automatically turn my nose up at any local cuisine whether that’s frog’s legs in France, black pudding (congealed pig’s blood) in England, paella with prawns and mussels in Spain, fried tarantulas and snake in Cambodia, Chicken’s feet in China or a Matcha Green Tea Latte in Geneva.

I’m not committing to liking these things but I’m definitely willing to have a go. Actually all of those items above I have tried (although not necessarily in stated country) and the only thing I thought truly vile was the Green Tea Latte I ordered this week but even that I still managed to slurp down, albeit shuddering with every mouthful. I wont order that one again.

Capture d’écran 2015-01-23 à 16.28.57I’m often motivated to try new things by the fear of missing out on great opportunities if I shut myself off to these. And from experience I know that whilst every activity is not necessarily for me there have been things I’ve tried without enthusiasm that have positively astonished me. If I’m honest I find snorkeling too scary to actually appreciate. But volunteering to run sessions of a legal programme for teenagers, that I thought I would struggle with, I really enjoyed.

In the same way I wouldn’t want to miss out on cultural culinary opportunities that might amaze me. I like green tea but thought the green tea latte revolting. I am pathetic around living specimens but found fried arachnid legs rather tasty.

I love travelling, and hope to do a lot more of this, but what I really enjoy is attempting to get under the skin of a different culture to find out what makes people from that part of the world  tick and to think about how they live the lives they do. I know you can’t generalize whole people from brief visits to a place but you can at least try to get an understanding of certain similarities these people may share.

When I went to Thailand about a decade ago I saw fried locusts for sale in busy tourist areas but declined to try them, partly because I was less brave than I am now but mostly because I wasn’t convinced that this was something real Thai people ate. I thought the eating of locusts might have just been a touristy gimmick with locals snickering from alleyways at the foolish farang.

However in Cambodia, at a local party celebrating the official opening of one of our favourite hostels/bars, we were enjoying the cheaper-than-water-beer when out came steaming dishes of crispy once-jumping hexapods. As the Cambodians there started tucking in I recognized the legitimacy of the dish and knew I would have to participate. The locals watched us expats with interest to see how we would respond to the unfamiliar platter and their curiosity was amply rewarded by the looks on our faces as we braved the many-legged snacks. But actually, once we got over the strangeness of eating a food so foreign to us, we enjoyed these little critters, which a friend accurately described as meaty crisps.

I wonder if those stranded students came to like their bug-based diet, once they allowed hunger to overcome initial misgivings? More likely their having to eat insects as necessity impaired their ability to truly appreciate these. I hope their ordeal will not indefinitely put these young adventurers off from future expeditions and perhaps they will even have the occasion to sample some intriguing local cuisines prepared in more favourable circumstances.

Magic in the Mundane


I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toes, magic is all around us and so the feeling grows…” (if Love Actually can adapt Wet Wet Wet’s song for their own purposes I don’t see why I can’t).

“Faith was a choice. So it followed, was wonder” – Carter Beats the Devil, Glen David Gold

I recently underwent a family rite of passage; not marriage, having children or enduring yet another mass family event without my eardrums exploding as twenty different discussions compete for volume within a confined space. No, this was very specific to my immediate family, something my parents and brothers had gone through before me. I was tasked with reading ‘Carter Beats the Devil’ and either enjoying the book or never darkening the doorstep of the family homestead ever again.

I read the book, loved it and passed the test. In summary, it’s a fictional tale that begins with the death of the President of the USA, who died shortly after participating in a magic show, and unravels from there. ‘Magic’ is central to the book and whilst there is no pretence that this is real, it doesn’t stop you from being drawn into the mystical narrative and creating a great yearning to be amazed.

However, I’ve stumbled across some texts recently suggesting that as we get older we lose the sense of magical wonder at the world easily experienced as a child. In something I recently read, but have forgotten the source, the author said nothing was magical any more, even things such as a new birth and falling in love, whilst capable of bringing happiness, lacked that sense of wonder he remembered as a child. Another well-written blog I found recently said the “greatest and saddest life lesson to learn, is that we only know true wonderment once it is lost”

Those thoughts on the dearth of wonder prompted me to think about when I last experienced a magical moment. My mind drew a blank and I started to panic. Perhaps it’s true, I lost my sense of enchantment and what’s worse I hadn’t even noticed.

Certainly as we gain experience in life we tend to trust our own instincts more and develop a certain level of scepticism. It isn’t that we tend to question the world around us more as we age, if anything as an adult I think we often fail to question things as much as when we were children. (Great blog about the difficult questions children ask)

Have you ever played a game of ‘but why’ with a child where you try to explain something and everything you say results in another ‘but why?’ response? After an hour or so of going round and round you realise you no longer know the answer you were sure of when you started.

I was that child with the endless ‘but why?’ and I still have an annoying tendency to question much around me. A few years ago I visited a friend who’d built a kitchen table with her partner. It was a fine table but I wasn’t content to sit-back and admire their handiwork, no, I had to get on the floor and look underneath the table to figure out the how.

I now question those blatant untruths I once accepted so readily. I no longer believe my uncle has a tiny invisible horse called Dobby. I will question the reality of Derren Brown’s latest antics, although that won’t necessarily detract from my amazement. If I’m interested in something curiosity overcomes me and I like to know how it has been achieved, but that doesn’t mean I’ve lost sight of the magical.

Screen Shot 2015-01-15 at 12.01.44 PMAs part of my 2015 resolutions, I’ve started ice-skating on a regular basis and every time I skate it’s the same story. At first I start off very tentatively, unsteady and unsure on my feet. After a time I gain my confidence, pick up speed and my fear of falling over and having someone sever my fingers with their skates wanes (although I always wear leather gloves as a precaution).

Once I’ve let go of my fears and start to enjoy myself I experience what I can best describe as pure freedom, which is magical, and I’m not sure can be expounded upon better than that. Gliding along the ice is inexplicably wonderful to me and perhaps that is so because I allow it to be. I don’t eagerly anticipate those magnificent moments and I don’t try to hold onto the unique sensation beyond it’s natural duration.

Ice-skating regularly brings a bit of magic into my life although I recognise on the surface it is essentially a rather meaningless act that cannot be transcribed and shared with others.

Frequent walks through the beautiful countryside around Geneva and experiencing the light hitting the canopy above, illuminating the woods in a certain way, have also brought about that same sense of unadulterated joy. I try to savour the uniqueness of such moments that cannot be recorded for posterity (no matter how hard I might try with the camera) and will never be exactly the same again for myself or anyone else. If that isn’t magic then I don’t know what is.Those are just a couple of examples.

I know that what I find magical may be mundane to others and what is wonderful to you may seem woeful to me. But I think the trick to maintaining a sense of wonderment, whatever this means to you, is just to be open to it and to appreciate it when it arrives, without drowning it in over-analysis or crushing it in a too-tight embrace.

If in twelve months I write a post about wonder being dead then we’ll know those other authors were right, but in the meantime I’ll press on in the belief that magic is and always will be all around me. Maybe that makes me a fool, but I’ll take a pinch of naivety over a bucket of cynicism any day.

The fight against fear


In the light of the atrocious attack at the office of Parisian satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on 7 January, where twelve died and others were seriously injured, I have been thinking about fear quite a lot.

All of us have different things we are afraid of, though I acknowledge that I have the luxury to be afraid of lesser things, like falling off my bike or not having enough money to buy lunch as often as I might like. My fears are a world apart from those of someone living in a war zone or receiving death threats for their work.

The journalists at Charlie Hebdo knew their lives were in danger but didn’t let fear of this prevent them from continuing their work and expressing their commitment to freedom of expression. Tragically these fears were realised when armed gunmen stormed their building and took the lives of so many, devastating the lives of even more.

I have been thinking about what it was these violent fundamentalists feared so much about that magazine that they felt compelled to carry out this attack. Yes, the magazine was well known for its frequent displays of irreverence, irreligiousness and indecency but if those killers were so sure of their faith why should something they found offensive frighten them so much?

I have also thought about the fear that those who lost their lives and those who survived must have felt as the attack took place. I thought of Stephane Charbonnier, editor of Charlie Hebdo, and the interview he gave to Le Monde in 2012 where, when questioned about death threats he’d received, said ‘I am not afraid of retaliation, I have no kids, no wife, no car, no credit. It perhaps sounds a bit pompous, but I prefer to die standing than living on my knees.’

Whilst it isn’t necessarily the case that these murders were orchestrated by a well-known terrorist outfit this was an act of terrorism, designed to bring people to their knees by instilling an overwhelming sense of fear.

Of course people are frightened by what happened, that’s a perfectly natural and shameless response. Yet in spite of this, support for the murdered cartoonists and others has been overwhelming. Yesterday evening, even though the fanatics who perpetrated this act were still at large with their deadly weapons and deadlier mindsets, thousands of people did not let fear prevent them from coming together to express their solidarity with those killed at Charlie Hebdo and affirm their commitment to the principles that publication upheld.

What frightens me most about acts such as these is that some noxious groups and individuals would take the seed of fear sown by these unwarranted attacks and intensify this into a frenzy of terror that would enable political parties to increase racial and religious prejudice and to curb the rights of their citizens*. Whether deliberately or not, they try to achieve what the terrorists have yet failed to do and bring us to our knees.

And recently, across Europe, there has been a large swing of voters to far-right-wing parties and increasing evidence of intolerance to others. There has been an increase in active support for anti-Islam groups in Europe for those too lazy to take the time to acknowledge that not all Muslims are terrorists. However there are also people, like those at Charlie Hebdo, who wont give into this acceptance of intolerance and hatred. For every anti-Islam or National Front march there are usually a sizable bunch of counter-protestors.

It is easy to look at the world around us and despair at the acts of violence and evil that are committed across the globe, to smaller and larger scales, on a daily basis. It is easy to look at the faces of strangers and find ourselves questioning whether or not they pose a threat to us. It is easy to give in to the fear that these acts of hate strive to generate and scaremongers muster for their own ends.

What is remarkable is that most of us chose not to. That in times of tragedy people gather together to share their candles and overcome the darkness. The global reaction to what happened has, on the whole, been a wonderful show of resilience and love in the face of evil. It has been a positive reinforcement that people are essentially decent and will not stand for such acts of violence against individuals and against principles that they hold dear.

Hate is ugly but rather than allowing the fear it engenders to breed it into something insurmountable it’s much more effectively held at bay with love and with laughter.

“I love you so, I have no time to hate
Even those wolves without. The great winds move
All their dark batteries to our fragile gate:
The world is very strong, but love is stronger.”

To Olive V – Lord Alfred Douglas

*UK Conservative David Davies MP has claimed that the Paris attacks call for repealing the Human Rights Act

The fears we all share


“the only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” Franklin D. Roosevelt 1933

“what you fear most of all is – fear. Very wise,” – Professor Lupin, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K.Rowling

This post is for anyone who has ever tried to face their fears, even if they haven’t always been able to overcome these, and for one particular friend whose constant attempts to combat her aviophobia has been truly inspirational.

We all fear different things, some of us fear snakes (ophidiophobia), some of us fear confined spaces (claustrophobia), and apparently some of us even fear beards (pogonophobia). My biggest fear is wasting my life (deficit-vivophobia?).

Much like Roosevelt and Professor Lupin said what my fear really comes down to is itself. I am afraid fear will stop me from living my life (see The Why), so to stop this paralysing me, when I know I’m scared of things I try to confront them.

For example, I used to be afraid of groups of young people (all that slang and acne is terrifying) so I volunteered for a youth project working with these very same frightening specimens and I actually quite enjoyed it.

I know that fears come in different shapes and sizes and for some they are much more debilitating than for others and I wouldn’t want to belittle that. For those people with genuine deep-seated phobias then facing those fears head on may not necessarily be the best course of action for you. Especially if your fear is of being run over by busy traffic.

Most phobias are things we acquire in life, whether consciously or subconsciously, and the only fears we are born with, that are innate to all human beings is that of loud noises (ligyrophobia) and that of falling (basophobia). Being a brave soul (pronounced ‘moron’ in some dialects) I have tackled both of these fears since my arrival in Geneva.

I took on the fear of falling by willingly agreeing to participate in a rope adventure course in the trees of Annecy (a lovely French town near Geneva) with a group of friends from work. I’m not ashamed to admit I was a little anxious. We all share this same fear of falling and chances of that fear being realised are somewhat increased if we choose to clamber about trees on unstable pieces of wood tied together with bits of string. But I thought about it sensibly and concluded that it would be bad publicity, and therefore not in the park’s interests, for its clientele to fall to their deaths, so I decided to trust in the harness, grips and cables to prevent my plummeting to the earth.

I can honestly say as I performed each task, varying in intensity and requiring an immense amount of concentration wobbling form one bit of wood to another, I utterly failed to enjoy each moment, but what made up for all this anxious manoeuvring was the adrenaline rush that kicked in after I landed on each secure platform in the trees.

Zipline!However it surprised me to discover that the zipline concluding each course was the biggest challenge I was to face throughout the day as I had anticipated this to be the most fun. What I hadn’t thought about was that you have to deliberately let yourself fall from a platform some 30 feet up.

Every fibre of my being was screaming DO NOT DO THIS, THIS IS A BAD IDEA but I thought if we can learn to be afraid of things we can also learn not to be afraid of things. I had my harness and as there wasn’t a pile of bruised and battered bodies on the ground below I decided I could trust in this and overcome the fear.

And actually the zip line was amazing, I really did enjoy the sensation of whizzing through the air suspended from a rope. The fear of falling wasn’t something I permanently overcame but I managed to overcome it enough when I needed to and to be able to enjoy that moment. I think that counts as a success.

The fear of loud noises I challenged by having a go at shooting real guns with live ammunition. I have tried shooting before, when I was in Cambodia, but that was quite a different experience where safety is barely a consideration as you are presented with a restaurant-style menu of guns to choose from at different costs and apparently if you really want to, and have $300 to spare, you can pay to blow up a live cow. I don’t want to kill things but I like shooting, I don’t believe the two have to go together.

In Geneva my shooting experience has been in a safe indoor environment with a trained firearms instructor drilling the importance of safety into me and without even the hint of an option of blowing up farmyard animals.

I like the psychology that’s involved with shooting. Most people when shooting for the first time recall their fear of loud noises that will come from the gun exploding. The result of this is an instinctive reaction to push the gun away from you and to close your eyes at the moment of pulling the trigger. This has the effect of forcing the gun down and results in shots falling below their intended target.

For the record not how you should hold the gun and definitely shouldn't have been allowed to take a photo whilst pointing a real gun at someone!

THE CAMBODIAN SHOOTING EXPERIENCE. For the record not how you should hold the gun and definitely shouldn’t have been allowed to take a photo whilst pointing a real gun at someone!

Part of the instruction is trying to overcome this fear and as the fear of loud noises is innate the best way to go about this is in trying to trick yourself so that your body doesn’t react until it is too late and the shot has already been fired. It is a wholly absorbing pastime as every shot requires an intense amount of concentration as you think about maintaining the correct position, lining up the sights and pulling the trigger very slowly (so the moment of explosion takes you by surprise).

Yes, every time the gun goes off and makes that loud noise it is startling but you learn to overcome this alarm so that you can make each shot and have the satisfaction from seeing yourself improve.

Fear is an involuntary reaction but it is, for the most part, if not exactly curable, at least controllable. We can challenge ourselves to face our fears and sometimes it can actually work out pretty well. If we cannot become fearless we can at least be courageous for as a great man once said:

‘I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid but he who conquers that fear.’ – Nelson Mandela

Unless that fear is spiders (arachnophobia), when I recommend leaving well alone until a bearded man removes it or a cat eats it. Unless you are also afraid of bearded men and cats, in which case maybe just running away as fast as possible is the solution.