During a performance in Plymouth the other night, the host encouraged the poets to talk about fear and what it was that each was afraid of. Ever since I was little I’ve had an irrational fear of sofas.
I have no idea why this is. The look of a sofa, to me, is really quite disgusting, so much so that it becomes a hindrance especially when people want you to come round their house. I do not have a sofa of my own and I doubt that I ever will, and I can’t even watch a sitcom or a soap opera if there is a sofa present on screen.
I go around to visit friends and I just kind of linger. Either that, or I sit on a kitchen chair. The worst thing about dinner parties is that, eventually, the host will say something like, ‘Let’s all go and sit in the living room’, and sure enough they will have a sofa, looming there with all its evil intent, and I will shudder inside and try to summon up some courage. It’s why I don’t go to many dinner parties.
I cannot describe how disgusting sofas are. It’s the cushions, primarily, and the fact that they are so big and cumbersome, and that people sit on them and eat and generally live their lives on sofas. The worst thing of all – and this really does give me the willies – is when you are on a train and you see abandoned sofas in people’s back gardens. It really does make me feel quite queasy.
At the moment my favourite art gallery in Torquay is having an exhibition of abstract art, the centrepiece of which is a giant sofa covered in graffiti, and there is no way that I will be going there until after the sofa has gone. I saw a picture on the internet and it was like being slapped in the face.
My sister thinks that this bizarre phobia goes back to when we were kids, and there was a particularly nasty sofa at a relative’s house, sitting on which felt like you were being eaten by a big cushiony fabric-covered monster. This might be true, but I think the real reason is that even before this, when I was a baby, I remember having jelly and dropping some on the sofa at my Uncle’s house. I remember being upset because the site of that jelly on the sofa was so disgusting, and I remember people fussing around reassuring me that I would have some more jelly, and me trying to explain that this was not what I was freaking out about. I’ve always hated jelly, too.
Coffee shop sofas are okay so long as I sit directly in the middle of them. So is the sofa at Tim’s house, a good friend and poetry colleague. Again, so long as I sit directly in the middle, equidistance from the arm rests. (Just typing this is making me feel sick).
So there I was on stage in Plymouth the other night, talking about my sofa phobia, and the audience was laughing, when a woman said that yes, she completely understood, and that she, too, had a sofa phobia. ‘Is it the cushions?’, she asked. Yes, I replied.
Because of that I feel able to write about this now. It’s an unusual affliction and quite humorous to the uninitiated, but it’s real, and I thank you for your support in sharing this with you.
I’m going to go for a lie-down, now.