By Mark van Engeland


Life is just grand.
I appear to have developed a four-star allergy to cats.
Cats, I tell you!  It couldn't be something butch and manly like Dobermans, oh no.  It had to be pwetty wittle puddy tats.
Given that I live in an area with a feline population density of approximately 18,642/ft2 (you'll appreciate that this is only an estimated figure), this was not too smart an allergy to pick up.  Three times, so far, fire engines have had to be called out to rescue me from trees; where some vicious, rampaging, irritant-fur-bearing kitten has been sniffing around at the base, with me whimpering in terror between the leaves at the top.

An allergy, it seems, can be caused by a sudden increase in exposure to the irritant substance (puddy tat fur, in this case).  I would have thought it would be the other way around, because the body builds defences against the irritants only when it comes into contact with them; but no.  Allergies are not directly caused by the substance, but by the body's overreaction to the substance.

When I say four-star, by the way, I mean it.  Allergies are graded from zero to four stars.  One star means you're allergic; two means you're very allergic, three means avoid at all costs, and four means move to Mars at the earliest opportunity.  I tested out two-star for dogs, too, but I wasn't tested for horses.  Considering the amount of time I'm spending around our four-legged friends, these days, that was probably a mistake; but I was so bunged up with reactions to moggies, and so doped up with antihistamines, that I wasn't at my most perspicacious when I went for the tests.

Seeing me reduced to a coughing, sniffling wreck was obviously inspirational to the Dutch germ population:

<Germ Council of War mode on>

    General Illness :  I say, chaps, some poor foreign fellow is feeling somewhat unwell.
    Common Cold :  Yeah!  Let's finish the silly bugger off!
    Major Constipation :  Wait a minute!  He's English!
    Frogs Legs :  Bon!  We can get our revenge for their making Frenchmen look like fools, every time we go up against them!
    Dutch flu :  We can get our revenge for Britain letting Hitler do whatever the hell he liked, right through until 1939!
    German Measles :  Ve can get our revenge for der Kaiser unt der Fürher!
    Caribbean Squits :  Easy, now.  It'll wait until tomorrow.
    British Upper-lip Paralysis :  No time like the present, lads!  Tally ho!

<Germ Council of War mode off>

Every bloody bug, along with its brothers, its sisters, mother, father, aunties, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and all their pet cats, has converged on me; all pushing, shoving, and giggling, as they have taken their bites out of my backside (or whichever side each individual specialises in).

The trouble with me and illness is not that I allow myself to suffer -- wallow in it, so to speak -- because I don't.  The trouble is that I can't do things so well, nor for so long, as normal.  When I'm ill, I still want to work at breakneck pace, round the clock, with no breaks or 'periods of rest'; which is how I usually spend the day.  I can't do that, when I'm coughing my guts up.  I have to keep stopping, whilst every fibre and every instinct is screaming at me to Do Something!  My efficiency drops, and I keep making small, niggling mistakes.  The need to constantly do and redo things, at a pace that is far slower than the norm, does little good for my state of mind.
In short, I become bloody bad-tempered!
If you're ever in Rotterdam, and you see a bunch of people running like rabbits to dive for cover, it will be pretty safe to assume that I've caught a head-cold.

The drugs for allergies are no great improvement; they make you dopey.  So, I spend half my time sneezing and coughing, and the other half with my head full of cotton wool.
Allergies can be cured by a series of injections; but some people have had bad reactions to these, so doctors prefer not to prescribe them.

Did someone say 'doctors'?
Don't get me started!
Doctors spend eight years getting drunk and having wild sex orgies, whilst they are supposed to be learning their trade -- all paid for by 'Mater' and 'Pater', of course -- and come out the end of it with a piece of paper which only confirms that they can cram six months' worth of learning into their short term memory -- just long enough to sit papers -- several times over the course of a few years; then they forget it all and have to consult medical manuals, every time someone sneezes in a different tone of voice!
Medicine is three parts memory, anyway.  A monkey could be trained to prescribe the right pills for the various illnesses for which doctors *Brilliantly* prescribe the right pills!
Jack (a South African baboon) ran a busy British railway signal junction for nine years, back in the eighteen eighties, without making a single error.  Show me a doctor with a record that clean!

Besides, if doctors were so bloody smart, then how come they always the first to be knocked out of quizzes on TV?
Don't tell me you've never noticed that...

<The Weakest Link mode on>

    van Engeland :  Jeremy:  What the bloody hell do you think you're doing?
    Innocent victim :  Um...  I'm, er...
    van Engeland :  The correct answer is that you're being a complete waste of space.  Alan:  Do you know how to make coffee?
    Innocent victim :  Well, yes, I, er...
    van Engeland :  The correct answer, going by this muck you've brought me, is: No, you bloody don't!  Peter:  Where is that data I asked you for, twenty-seven seconds ago?
    Innocent victim :  Well, it's...  erm...  I'm still...
    van Engeland :  The correct answer is that you're too bloody lazy to do as you're told!  Idiot doctor:  Why haven't you cured me of this bloody bug?
    Innocent victim :  Um, well, it's the moon, you see, over the seventh tee...
    van Engeland :  No, the correct answer is because you're a totally ineffectual moron.  You are the weakest link.  Goodbye!

    Idiot Doctor :  Well, I think it's a bit unfair that I was voted off so early, especially since I do know how to make coffee; but that's the way the voting goes, isn't it?  It might be, anyway.  I don't know.  How does it work, again?

<The Weakest Link mode off>

The Weakest Link is a British quiz show, which is renowned for the meanness of its question-mistress, Anne Robinson.
Contestants are genuinely frightened of her; which is surprising, because she's such a cutie, really.
(Just like me).

The doctor I saw over here thought that, since I was having troubles with allergies, he ought to give me a flu shot.
He was quite right.  It was a good idea, so long as it was timed when I was not suffering too badly with the allergies.
His timing was impeccable.  It gave me the flu.

See you next time (if I live that long).


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