Facing My Fear

If anyone in Rome is reading this, turn your computer off and start tidying the place up. The wife and I are heading over there on Wednesday to start our honeymoon, so it had better be ship-shape or I’ll be having words.

I am very much looking forward to this holiday. As I’ve informed the majority of the people I’ve spoken to about it, I haven’t so much as seen a beach for over ten years. Yes, I know Rome isn’t famed for its beaches, but we’re heading off to Sardinia (via Sorrento) next week, so shut it.

As I said though, I am looking forward to the holiday. What I’m not looking forward to is the travelling there. I’ll admit that as I’ve got older I’ve developed a bit of general anxiety relating to a great many things – crowded places, buses, trains, heights, to name a few – but if there was anything I could totally remove from my life quite happily without any regrets at all, it would be flying. I never had an issue with it as a child but as I grew older, certainly after my mid-teens, I grew terrified of the prospect. To illustrate the point, we booked our flights some six months ago. That night I couldn’t sleep due to a inner panic, and I’ve suffered intermittent attacks ever since.

The worst time I’ve had on a plane was on a trip to Barcelona last year. I attempted to cover myself for the flight by filling myself with alcohol before getting on the plane. I’ve done this on the last few occasions, and while not ideal, it’s certainly helped. Not this time. As we taxied to the runway I was nervous enough, but on take-off my whole body went into shock – I turned white, my stomach tightened to the size of a ten pence piece, my mouth seized up and tears rained down my cheeks. I had never felt so petrified in my life. Once we were up above the clouds, and I calmed down enough to physically hold a glass (which took some time), I managed to down a few cans of lager which settled the nerves slightly, enabling me to walk down the plane to the toilet – something I’d always previously been unable to do. Upon landing I swore that I would never again get on a plane without first speaking to my GP about obtaining some sort of sedative. Sadly I spoke to soon, as I still had to come home a few days later, which I managed with slightly less drama, but still with extreme discomfort.

I turned to the interwebs for assistance and came across a website at http://www.fearofflyinghelp.com – which is a free course, written by a former commercial flight pilot with the rather unhelpful name of Captain Chance. He wrote his course to consist of various different lessons and advice, most of which helped me immensely. He explains everything from the design of the aircraft, to the technical information as to what exactly is happening during take-off and flight, together with stats and knowledge about exactly why flying is so safe. His final lesson is written as a imaginary flight. It goes through the whole thing, from the morning preparations through to getting to the airport, boarding the plane, taxiing, take-off, cruising and landing. Just reading this lesson makes me shake with anxiety but does get me used to what exactly is happening. While that site is a wonderful source of help to me, I still needed something else to take the edge off.

Yesterday I finally spoke to my GP about the problem. He immediately prescribed me a box of diazepam, which I will admit, I am very much looking forward to taking. As I sit here writing this I am feeling very nervous about the flight tomorrow, which is at 7.00am. So much so that I have been considering taking a pill today, however I am only allowed three in one 24 hour spell, and these are all required first thing in the morning. My GP told me to take one 2mg pill before leaving home in the morning, another prior to boarding the plane, and a final one after sitting down. He advised that once I have taken all three pills I should feel chilled out for the remainder of the flight. I hope so, because I do not want to go through what happened on the Barcelona trip again.

I’ve read up on diazepam and have found a mixture of reviews. Some have said that it’s not really helped them at all. Others have said that it permanently cured their fear of flying from that point onwards. I would be happy with something in the middle. There are places on Earth I currently believe I will never get to visit, due to this crippling anxiety. Japan, West Coast America, Iceland, Germany, Sweden, New Zealand are all places I dream of going to but only put myself off. If these diazepam have a positive effect on me then I will certainly be looking to see a few more places in my life before it’s too late.

My next blog will more than likely be written on my return to England at the end of June, so look after the place while I’m gone, please.



The Fall of the Eleventh

The easiest part of writing this entry was the title. Let’s face it, there are already probably hundreds of blog entries, YouTube videos, articles and such with the same name. It’s a line written for us by Steven Moffat back in Series 6, and I’m sure it’ll be repeated again before the year is out.

Matt Smith has made his decision to leave the role of the Doctor, and the BBC have confirmed this in an official announcement which was dropped on us last night (June 1st). It’s sad news, of course. Smith’s tenure as the 11th incarnation of the Doctor has been a pleasure to watch since his first episode, and through a combination of excellent performances and clever marketing, the programme itself has massively grown in stature across the world with Smith as the incumbent.

The beauty of Doctor Who is that it is possibly the only television show in the world where the lead actor can decide to leave, and another actor can take his place, and this can be explained away with only one word – ‘regeneration‘. To some, a regeneration can be an exciting event, a chance for the show to get a breath of fresh air, a lick of paint and a few new ideas to take the whole thing forward. To others it can be heartbreaking, as they come to the realisation that ‘their’ Doctor, the incarnation they have always loved, will soon be gone and replaced by something totally new. The idea of regeneration is something utterly brilliant – it is the reason why Doctor Who continued for so long since 1963, and it is the reason why we are still able to enjoy brand new episodes of the series almost forty years after the death of the first actor to play the Doctor, William Hartnell. It is fitting, therefore, that we get to enjoy the excitement/heartbreak/tedium* of a regeneration in the 50th Anniversary year of the show.

(*delete as appropriate)

I am not devastated by Smith’s decision. I believe three series is long enough to leave a lasting legacy, and while I would have been delighted for the Eleventh Doctor to carry on for a few more years I will never be averse to a regeneration and a new take on the eponymous hero. What bugs me slightly is the way that we’re told the news more than 6 months prior to the actual event itself. I appreciate that Doctor Who is now one of the biggest and most popular non-soaps on television at the moment and as such keeping things like this secret would take an effort of such enormous magnitude that it would be laughable, but I just don’t feel like anyone actually tried. This happened with Eccleston’s Doctor and then subsequently Tennant’s, where we knew months in advance that the regeneration was coming and who was going to take over the role. I would, just for once, love to be taken totally by surprise by a regeneration in the show. During David Tennant’s era, he was shot by a Dalek at the end of The Stolen Earth and his subsequent ‘regeneration’ was left as a cliffhanger. We then had a crazy seven days where the press went mental with speculation as to who was taking over. The second part of that episode, Journey’s End, was hugely anticipated. Obviously in the end it all turned out to be a bit of a red herring, but the point was that the surprise element of a possible regeneration out of nowhere was amazing to be part of.

But, we know now, so let’s get on with it. Sadly, the official announcement means we are now going to be subjected to months and months of speculation as to who will be taking over the role, and then the inevitable mass disappointment when we find out the truth. In the last 24 hours I have already seen some frankly ridiculous suggestions, not least that David Tennant should return. No, he really shouldn’t.

We have also, again, returned to the old argument that the Doctor should be played by a woman, and I’ve even heard some mutterings that it’s unfair that the role has thus far been monopolised by male actors. The Doctor is a male character. Sherlock Holmes has also been played exclusively by male actors. If Benedict Cumberbatch decided to quit his role as Sherlock, would it be realistic to expect female actors to be given the chance to take over? Of course not – so why should we expect the same with the Doctor? Granted, we have already heard in The Doctor’s Wife that the Corsair, a fellow Time Lord, used to regenerate into a female form – but the Corsair doesn’t have his/her own show.

I will admit to being one of the show’s fans who wasn’t happy with the casting of Matt Smith as the Doctor initially. I felt he was too young, that he had only been chosen in an effort to win over the female fans and younger audiences, and that the show might suffer for it. I was terribly wrong. Matt Smith proved himself time and again with some phenomenal performances, some of which saved otherwise lacklustre episodes of the show. As such, no matter who gets announced this time around, I am sure I will be initially critical before being blown away when they take over. The BBC have an excellent track record of picking the right actor for the role, and I have no doubt they will do it again.