– Well, you’re not so little anymore, but I think we can safely say you’re the world’s most famous arachnophobe. Do you still get as scared as ever?
– I’ve made progress. After my initial trauma, I was unable to go into a room unless it had been thoroughly vacuumed, but exposure therapy helped me. Nowadays the house gets vacuumed every other day, but when I first moved in with my husband, Jack, we had to pay someone to do it non stop. I’m still not entirely cured, though. I don’t think one ever is. The best we can do is confront the trauma and make it something familiar. If we try to deny it, we finish by getting swamped.
– And you’re trying to help others now.
– Yes, I set up Fight That Fright six years ago to help people get to grips with their fear of spiders. Since then we’ve branched into other phobias too, but spiders are still the one I get asked about most. It can be a real handicap sometimes. One woman told me she avoided groups of four people because they have eight legs. And we’ve had to edit a brochure to send out to people who are too anxious to use the World Wide Web.
– You’re a successful businesswoman too. How did that come about?
– I started Miss Muffet’s Curds’n’Whey a couple of years ago as a hobby, just supplying a couple of local shops, but it’s done so well I’ve already got six staff. We’ve kept it very traditional, though. The milk comes straight from our own herd, only slightly pasteurised to get past the hygiene inspectors. In itself it’s somewhat bland, of course, so we’ve developed a range of natural fruit accompaniments. We’ll soon be adding mango and papaya. Jack’s been in the food business much longer than me, starting out with Jack Horner’s Original Plum Pie twenty years ago, but Miss Muffet’s turnover is closing on his quite fast. People sometimes ask how we can work in the same field without getting all competitive, but it’s actually very stimulating. We meet up for lunch and discuss new ideas. And in fact my curd goes so well with his pie it’s as if we were made for each other.
– One thing everyone wants to know about is the tuffet, which is either a stool or a tuft of grass. You’ve gone on record as saying you’re too traumatised to remember what you were sitting on, but surely you have some idea?
– Ah, you’re not going to draw me on that one! I’m honorary President of the Tuffet Association and it can be awfully stressful at times – the two main branches get so bitchy with each other. They’ve appealed to me to settle the argument, but it would probably start a war!
– Any take home message for our readers?
– We all have fears. But if you draw from all available resources, both within yourself and from others, you’ll find what you need to overcome them.