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47. Phobia

Tapehead no 47

Never mind documentaries about crack addicts, casualty wards or police brutality. This week we’re talking the real cutting edge. This week, we’re talking milk floats.

As they said in the Seventies, “Get with the pinta people/get with the healthy crowd.”

Although the Humphreys are strangely (enigmatically) noticeable by their absence, Perpetual Motion’s The Milk Float is the definitive, seminal history of milk delivery – from the Milkman’s Fear Of Reversing (a Wim Wenders film in the making) to the bloke who makes a living dressing up as Bobby Bottle, single-handedly converting The Youth from silver foil to silver top.

Who dresses up as the rest of The Bobby Bottle Gang (Emma Egg, Roberta Yogurt, you know the others) remains a teasing secret.

Ancient milkman, Billy Cotton (Leeds Co-op) goes back to the days of the horse-drawn milk cart.

“You could talk to t’horse like a ‘uman being. You could say ‘Come on…stop’, ‘come on…stop, ‘come on…stop, and he would go on and then stop.” (Those were some wild and crazy times, yes indeed.)

Nowadays, boasts (mad) milkman, Alf Whale, he “can get from 0-60 in a fortnight.”

And yet, somehow, the milk float was perfect for the milkman’s randy, racy image (which explains why Tapehead drives one to this day).

“I’ve had so much pleasure out of knowing my milkman,” says one suburban biddy who is pleasured by her milkman daily (two pints and a yogurt).

Although this brilliant British design was so solid and easy to repair, their demise is now imminent: a grim indictment of the decline of a once great nation.

Randy old Brits from ancient times (1900-1960) are at it again in Forbidden Britain: 1900-1960 reminiscing about another great British tradition, the marital affair.

“All ‘C’ wanted me for was sex. Morning, noon, and night,” barks one old girl whose face makes Nora Batty look like Naomi Campbell.

Another wife of a war-time adulterer says he “tried every way possible to get me pregnant”, which sets your mind wondering which ways they were trying.

The credit sequence to Natural Neighbours features snakes, baboons, crocodiles and, bizarrely, a milkman. A warning ? A forthcoming episode studying them in their natural habitat ? Who knows ?

Arachnophobia: The True Story is a study of our fear of spiders and how an American hypnotherapist and An Oxford University Psychiatrist work on the arachnophobes’ terrors.

“It’s like the end of the world,” says one. We soon see why: shadowy close-up shots of spiders (spiders’ arms, spiders’ legs, spiders’ eyes) start the skin crawling. Various menacing spiders – like the spitting spider – are shown snuffing out anything that moves in ingenious, ultra-violent ways.

Our worst fears are illustrated with evil relish and (frankly unnecessary) Hitchcock-horror violins.

Arachnophobes, explains the hypnotherapist, live in a world full of spiders.
“If there’s a spider in the room, you’re gonna find it.”

Tapehead is an arachnophobe. Or at least he is now. And no, he couldn’t find it. Not even after several hours hunting by torch light, brandishing a bottle of bleach, scouring the house.

Many arachnophobes are cured by gradual familiarisation starting with tiny spiders in glass jars, until they can fondle tarantulas without flinching. How the tarantulas feel about this is not documented.

“How would you feel having it somewhere where you couldn’t see it ?” asks the hypnotherapist picking up a (huge, black) household spider. “On your… back for example.”

Slowly the spider crawls up the arachnophobe’s shirt, then on to his bare neck and into his hair. Tapehead, thrashing his arms maniacally, just sccrrreeeeeeeeeams.

Natural Neighbours, 8.30-9pm, Tue, BBC1
Forbidden Britain,, 9.45-10.30pm, Thu, BBC2
Perpetual Motion, 8.30-9pm, Fri, BBC2