Friday, January 18, 2008

Seasonal Malaise

So Norovirus has struck again this year, worse than ever if the media is to be believed. The back-to-work season was sandwiched between dire warnings of projectile vomiting and uncontrollable pooing. Commuters on packed, sweaty trains looked at each other furtively in case their seatmate was suddenly struck down - after all, the papers warned us, these germs were everywhere and could hit at any time. Anyone who looked vaguely ill was to be avoided or sent evil glares: were they the fiends who were ignoring NHS advice to stay at home? In offices, there were competitive renditions of whose-family-was-worst-hit-at-christmas-dinner and slightly sadistic shudders at the terrible pains absent colleagues must be going through.

I am almost disappointed I didn't get it - I feel I managed to miss out on an experience bigger than myself (I am of course being sarcastic here).

There obviously was/is a nasty bug going around - attendance at my work post-xmas party was decimated by ill-health (or perhaps people using a mild cold as an excuse not to go) and the Heloise-stronghold has been brought low by disease of the mucus/miserable/exhaustion type. Apart from the feeling ill part, it's all been rather jolly and an excuse to sleep for 16 hours a day and not change out of pyjamas. Due to the rigid following of the "feed a cold" rule, I've failed to lose weight - although colds should probably not be fed by left over xmas chocolate but by healthy things that we were too ill to go out and buy.

The trouble with illness-related media paranoia is that it tends to override my usual scepticism and awaken any latent compulsive tendencies floating around my head. I have a slight weakness for hygeine paranoia anyway - if I think too hard I can find myself avoiding touching door handles, taps, light switches or the flush on toilets (to name just a few) - but with something as thrillingly disgusting as Norovirus, it can spiral well out of control. Those germs could be everywhere - buttons on cash machines, chip+pin machines at the supermarket, train seats, tables, computer keyboards, restaurants, the kitchens where my pret sandwich was made - and if I'm not careful the logical next step would be to lock myself in my own bathroom, gently rocking backwards and forwards. Luckily, getting a genuine illness put a stop to this dangerous behaviour, if only because I was confined to house arrest.

On the plus side, Tesco was gloriously empty last weekend (although they were so short-staffed they could only open half the tills and the shelves were pretty empty) which gave a bizarre snapshot of what the world would be like during a flu epidemic but without the death and actual terror.

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