I read with horror the news about the self-proclaimed Scorpion Queen of Thailand setting a new record. The latest attempt involved holding a live scorpion in her mouth for more than two minutes in front of a crowd at a shopping mall.

Why any sane person would want to do something so ridiculous amazes me. I can understand man's fascination with animals such as orangutans or hippos. Even crocodiles. Or how about tigers or armadillos? But to be obsessed with creepy crawlies is beyond my understanding.

I will admit to a phobia of cockroaches. There is something about the sight of one that makes my skin crawl and alarm bells ring. The more I avoid them the more they seem to be fascinated by me. So, I will find that in a room full of people, the one such creature that has found refuge there will single me out for attention. Family and close friends are privy to this aversion of mine and, on such occasions, are known to watch out for me. If they do see one of these lurking about in the vicinity, they know better than to shout and draw my attention to its presence. For they have seen my maniacal behaviour when in close proximity to these insects.

I have been known to scream like a banshee, jump up and down and generally behave like I am in the final throes of death. The dance of death usually evokes laughter instead of sympathy and the more wildly I flail my arms and legs about, the louder they snort and choke. If anyone were to see them without being aware of my presence and that of the invader of my personal space, they could be forgiven for coming to the conclusion that these people are enjoying the funniest film ever made.

For a long time this weakness of mine was kept a closely guarded secret for fear of others using it as a tool to make me do something against my will. But these things cannot be kept hidden when one lives in a country where these creatures abound, seemingly in every nook and cranny.

So, if you were to see me conduct a thorough check of every place I sit on or surface I walk on, your suspicious would be aroused at this peculiar conduct. And coming up with excuses for this particular paranoia is not exactly the easiest thing to do without being labelled as a person who isn't quite right in the head.

Difficult lessons

One of the most difficult lessons I had to teach in my short avatar as a teacher was on these intrepid creatures. I have never been able to comprehend why any publisher would choose such a subject for young impressionable minds. Swallowing my fears, I proceeded to prepare for the lesson, reading encyclopaedic volumes on this creature and its unbelievable survival instinct. As I turned the pages, my fingers would involuntarily avoid contact with the pictures. Summoning thespian qualities I didn't know I possessed, I tried to inject wonder and awe into my voice as I spoke of this wonderful insect and how it helps mankind. That part always made me feel like throwing up.

How could anything so abominable be helpful was something I would never understand. So what if it ate rotting vegetation? For all I cared it could eat its fill as long as it stayed in the woods forever.

There were a few alarming moments such as when an over-enthusiastic student offered to bring a live specimen to class. I promptly squashed that brainwave, pointing out that the pictures in the National Geographic were graphic enough for all of us.

I must be a wonderful actress as, at the end of the year, some of my pupils told me that their favourite English lesson was the one on the cockroach.