Do you see danger everywhere? Well you should, says Docter Noel Zone
Patrick Freyne nabs a rare interview with the famous dangerologist. His advice for a safe season? ‘Make sure your Christmas stocking isn’t an actual giant’s sock. They may come back to get it’
Patrick Freyne meets Docter Noel Zone, a level 5 dangerologist. Illustration: Chris Judge
Noel’s nieces, Katherine and Millicent, who call dangerology “nerdology”. Illustration: Chris Judge
Noel’s twin, Joan Zone, a leading stuntwoman
Chris Judge. Illustration: em, Chris Judge
David O’Doherty. Illustration: Chris Judge
Docter Noel Zone is a world-famous (level 5) dangerologist who has written three books: Danger is Everywhere, Danger is Still Everywhere and Danger Really is Everywhere. He plans to eradicate all danger by 2020.
I want to interview him, but I have to go through his neighbours, David (O’Doherty, comedian) and Chris (Judge, illustrator), who help write his books and who, I initially suspect, invented Docter Noel Zone. When I say this, however, they advance towards me in a menacing fashion. Then they make me a nice cup of tea and explain that Noel is real.
“Now you listen to me, Freyne,” says O’Doherty, “the world is a dangerous and scary place and it seems to be getting more so every day. At least when we were kids there was only economic uncertainly, the vague threat of nuclear war and moving statues to contend with. Everybody should have a person like Noel in their life because however scared you may feel, he is over 1,000 times more scared.”
I’d still like to speak to him, I say. “This might be difficult,” says O’Doherty. “He has a habit of confusing phones for Honduran Vibrating Scorpions, and stamping on them till they stop working. He distrusts envelopes as they could contain spiders and anyway, he sealed up his letterbox a long time ago after he suspected a bee came into The Dangerzone (his house). It’s best to communicate through me. I will convey your questions to him by writing them on tennis balls, which I will toss down his chimney. Obviously he doesn’t believe in fires.”
I insist The Irish Times only does face-to-face interviews. O’Doherty says he’ll ask about that and writes the question on a tennis ball. In the meantime, I talk to Noel’s nieces, Katherine and Millicent, who call dangerology “nerdology”. “One Halloween he made us dress up as rocks,” says Katherine. “Rocks! And then he told us that rocks can’t move, that we should stay in our rockery.”
“He says he likes to dance,” adds Millicent. “But then says most dancing is too dangerous. So he puts on really slow music and does his favourite move – ‘the toaster’. You go down on your hunkers. And you stay down, for, like, two minutes. And then you pop up again.”
‘I locked him into the zoo’
Noel’s twin, Joan Zone, a leading stuntwoman, recalls their childhood: “One time I gaffer-taped him to the front of my bike and tried to ramp over the river . . . Another time I locked him into the zoo for the night. I thought it was hilarious!”
I ask some (frightening) local biking urchins what they think of Docter Noel. They call him “helmet head” (because he wears a helmet) and “Captain Cape” (because he wears a cape) and they like to scare him. “One Christmas we pretended to be carollers,” says one biking urchin. “But when he came out, we were all dressed as sharks! It was the funniest thing!”
I can see why Docter Noel is so frightened. Eventually he agrees to meet me in the orthopaedic mattress section of Beds, Beds, Beds, where we lie on adjacent beds. It’s the safest place he can think of. He also asks me to dress “safely”, so I wear a helmet and a flak jacket.
He’s very nervous, so to warm up I ask about his recent activities. “I have been out in my DORK (Danger Observation Reconnaissance Kart) a lot recently,” he says, “taking notes in my PORB (Portable Observation Recording Booklet) that I keep in my PEBB (Personal Emergency Bum Bag). As always, danger levels range from NED (Not Especially Dangerous) to RAD (Really Awfully Dangerous). Such is life,” he adds.
How did he qualify to be a docter? “You will notice from the spelling that I am a Docter of Dangerology, very different from a doctor. To become one you must reach a very high level in LOFDing (Looking Out for Danger), POWDMBing (Pointing Out Where Danger Might Be) and MSTDIDWEEIPSTIAing (Making Sure There Definitely Isn’t Danger Where Everyone Else Is Pretty Sure There Isn’t Any).”
I ask about his creative process. He tells me he writes inside a wardrobe, in the dark with a not-too-sharp pencil covered in bubble wrap. To avoid paper cuts, he writes on kitchen roll.
What are the most dangerous things? “Some big dangers that people don’t think about enough include pop-up books (every year hundreds of people go to hospital from reading books they didn’t realise were pop-up books), vampire teachers (always check to see if your teacher’s teeth are pointy and whether they laugh like this: MWAHAHAHAHA etc) and top of the danger tree, is of course, bicycles.”
Danger of bicycles
He gets a bit distracted by the danger of bicycles until I agree to bury mine. I ask how to get around instead. “The safest way to get around is crawling,” he says. “Followed by milk float, tortoise and barge.”
Are there any dangers that concern him recently? “Christmas is a hugely dangerous time of year. Be vigilant. If you get a Christmas tree, make sure there aren’t any chimps living in it. They will ruin your Christmas dinner . . . Make sure your Christmas stocking isn’t an actual giant’s sock. They may come back to get it.”
Anything else? “Tinsel is robots’ wee.”
Ugh. “Sorry, somebody had to tell you. It’s gross.”
Does he ever worry that he himself may be dangerous? “There are times when, in the service of eradicating danger, you must do something that could be considered dangerous. Such as [in Danger is Really Everywhere] when I had to ride a giraffe backwards to catch a thief.”
Docter Noel is getting restless, so I ask my final question. President Roosevelt once said: “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” What does he think of this? “I would add a few extra bits,” he says. “We have nothing to fear but fear itself, and vampires. And robots. And haunted ancient Egyptian mummys. And werewolves. And robot werewolves. And bicycles. I’ll be honest, I’m starting to agree less with this quote.”
Danger Really is Everywhere by Docter Noel Zone (with help from David O’Doherty and Chris Judge) is out now