Sunday, 6 March 2011

The Führer of the Streptococcracy

I have a cold, the Full Monty of a cold, pounding head, blocked nose, sore throat, sore eyes, temperature, cough, general weighty sense of self pity that usually descends with most colds. I stress this is a cold, not flu, Avian or Swine. It is just a common cold yet at the point of experience most colds do not feel at all common; they are uncommon, particular to you, always a cut above the average, run of the mill cold. I have long felt some sympathy for men when women mock their hypochondria, calling it ‘man-flu’ as if the fact that women bare children or have periods allows women the moral high ground on the cold. I think women may soldier on with a bad cold because of circumstances but secretly we would all like to take to our bed, be brought chicken soup, soft boiled eggs with soldiers, all the drugs the pharmacy can muster that purports to alleviate symptoms that prevent us raising our throbbing head from an unplumped pillow.

No one in Hollywood films seem to have colds, indeed the common cold in singularly absent form most movies. Would Norman Bates have turned out to knife Janet Leigh in the shower if he was suffering from a bad cold? Gary Cooper might have postponed his shoot out in High Noon if he couldn’t stop sneezing. John Wayne certainly couldn’t have held his reins in his teeth in True Grit if he was so bunged up with a cold, breathing was impossible except through his mouth. Kate Winslet would never have climbed out onto that prow of the Titanic if she was full of snot, indeed would she have ever managed an affair with Jack if she was confined to her cabin with a box of tissues and a hot water bottle. Arnie never has a cold, Rambo didn’t sneeze once, since 1988 John McLane in the Die Hard movies has never caught a cold from running around in just a vest in all weathers.

In literature, the odd women in Austen novels may take to her bed with a snivel so some gallant can angst or pace floors but indisposed never seemed to cover looking like shit and having a nose that can glow in the dark . No one seems to deliver their greatest speeches with a bunged up croaky voice, could Mark Anthony have got away with it if he had sounded like someone from Birmingham with acute adenoidal overtones? How would Lincoln have got away with the Gettysburg address if he had to stop to keep blowing his nose, would Elizabeth I have cheered on her troops before The Armada so well if she had to admit that she had the heart of a lion but with a bit of a bunged up nose? The common cold seems to have avoided the pivotal moments in history, if Arch Duke Ferdinand hadn’t gone to Sarajevo because he had a headache and couldn’t cope with his bunged up sinuses then World War I might have been delayed a little at least. If Lee Harvey Oswald had sneezed maybe his aim would have been off? The three hundred Spartans may never have fought so bravely and gone down in history or myth as brave men if they had managed to all have colds spread by their use of communal drinking bowls and shared washing facilities?

So I apologise dear reader that this blog is not the best blog I or anyone has ever written, it could have been if it weren’t for the fact that I had to stop to blow my nose, thence losing my thread amidst the grey cells that seem to be wrapped in a grey cotton wool at present .

I leave you with Ogden Nash, whose light humourous verse is sometimes dismissed by the poetry community. His surreal creation of rhyme by word invention has sometimes been under appreciated, I think a poet that understands my cold so well and can even invent the phrase The Führer of the Streptococcracy deserves some praise.

Ogden Nash

Go hang yourself, you old M.D.!
You shall not sneer at me.
Pick up your hat and stethoscope,
Go wash your mouth with laundry soap;
I contemplate a joy exquisite
I'm not paying you for your visit.
I did not call you to be told
My malady is a common cold.

By pounding brow and swollen lip;
By fever's hot and scaly grip;
By those two red redundant eyes
That weep like woeful April skies;
By racking snuffle, snort, and sniff;
By handkerchief after handkerchief;
This cold you wave away as naught
Is the damnedest cold man ever caught!

Give ear, you scientific fossil!
Here is the genuine Cold Colossal;
The Cold of which researchers dream,
The Perfect Cold, the Cold Supreme.
This honored system humbly holds
The Super-cold to end all colds;
The Cold Crusading for Democracy;
The Führer of the Streptococcracy

Bacilli swarm within my portals
Such as were ne'er conceived by mortals,
But bred by scientists wise and hoary
In some Olympic laboratory;
Bacteria as large as mice,
With feet of fire and heads of ice
Who never interrupt for slumber
Their stamping elephantine rumba.

A common cold, gadzooks, forsooth!
Ah, yes. And Lincoln was jostled by Booth;
Don Juan was a budding gallant,
And Shakespeare's plays show signs of talent;
The Arctic winter is fairly coolish,
And your diagnosis is fairly foolish.
Oh what a derision history holds
For the man who belittled the Cold of Colds!

Despite the cold I managed to give out all my Seamus Heaney books for World Book Night and had some interesting conversations with people along the way. I also managed to host an event in the evening which was fun and brought back to me again how important the reader is, without them books are merely paper with marks on.

Off now to watch Spartacus on the TV, nothing like a cuppa and an old film on a Sunday afternoon to help your cold feel loved and nurtured. That’s another one, imagine the famous ‘I am Spartacus’ scene if everyone was unable to get the words out for sneezing or a sore throat.
If you want to hear Ogden Nash read one of his poems that always struck a chord with me you can find it here.

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