I’VE been thinking a lot recently about my biggest fears and how they’ve changed since I was a wee guy. 

I remember moving house when I was about six or seven and my maw said to me on our arrival, “I got you new bed covers”. I wasn’t fussed. New bedcovers didn’t mean anything to me as a wee guy. “I’ll go and put them on your bed then you can go and get settled into your new room.” 

Magic, I thought. She shouted me up to see my new room and I found, to my horror, that the bedcovers in question were clown-themed. I had never expressed any interest in clowns before this so was not only confused as to why she’d chosen them but also realised in that moment that I was absolutely terrified of them. I then had a very vivid flashback to my auntie putting on a film while she was babysitting me maybe a year or so before this. The film was, of course, Stephen King’s It.

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“Can you change them?” I said to my maw. “I, eh, don’t like they covers.”

“How no?” my maw replied. I didn’t want to shatter my hard-man image here by saying I was scared of clowns. I just said: “I don’t like the colour.”

My maw told me to get a grip, left the room and that was that. I stood with my back to the door, eyeballing the frolicking clowns on my bed. They were so horrible. They had stupid grins on their faces, manic eyes and all manner of unsettling hairstyles. They all wore different coloured tunics, some were a sickly shade of green, some were a kind of horrible pink. The same colour of pink as the inside of an undercooked burger. Their red noses seemed to be kind of deflated and sad looking. Not to mention their ridiculous big shoes. I hated them so much.

As well as terror, I also felt disgusted by them. I started to imagine how they’d look as real people. I pictured them all on fag break out the back of their circus tent. Fingers stained with nicotine, horrid yellow teeth, and talking about the various ways they were going to terrorise me that evening.

I pulled back the covers to check the other side to see if more clowns lay in wait underneath. The reverse side was just loads of red, yellow and blue polka dots. I was now faced with a dilemma. I could turn the covers over so I didn’t need to look at the clowns but this meant, while I was asleep, the clowns would be in direct contact with my skin. I didn’t want that. If I left them the right way up though, the clowns would be in my line of vision and I’d no doubt start to see them moving about in the dead of night.

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At best they’d be jumping about, being annoying, just indulging in general clownery – but at worst they’d be devious and menacing. Perhaps even murderous.
My maw came in to check on me later that night and found I had solved the problem. I left the covers the right way up and carefully hid each clown underneath pairs of my pants. Trapping them, rendering them unable to clown around. She changed the covers for me the next day and the clowns haven’t troubled me since.

I have grown out of my fear of clowns, thankfully. I still find that there’s something unnerving about them but it’s a noble profession with a long and colourful history and

I’m sure there are some very talented clowns out there. My fears now come in a variety of different forms though. From the rational, if slightly morbid fear, of the dug getting ran over, to the more abstract fear of “being cancelled”. I get interviewed a lot about my work and go on podcasts to promote my books etc and I often find myself rambling a lot of nonsense.

I’m worried that one day, while I’m in full flow, rambling until I make a coherent point, something absolutely mental will slip out. I’ll say something which will turn everyone against me and bring my career to a shuddering halt.

It’s the worst fear for anyone whose work is built on making stuff for other people to consume. If those people decide that you’re now a terrible person then that’s you gubbed. Game over. 

I don’t have any opinions that could get me hung, drawn and quartered. Maybe the worst is that I think pineapple is amazing on pizza. Or maybe it’s that there should be hefty fines levied at motorists who don’t give the wee thank-you wave when you let them pull out. Maybe I could get cancelled for saying I don’t think Fleetwood Mac are actually that good.

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If someone said to me: “You can have one million quid deposited into your bank account, tax free, right now, but, if you accept, I’ll tell everyone you said something incredibly problematic. If you decline, you have to spend a night locked in a room with the clowns that used to haunt your dreams as a child. What do you choose?”

I’d say: “Mate, send in the clowns.”