I meet two female friends for an after work drink at the Windsor Castle Pub. I give one (Lady A) the socially compulsory kiss on the cheek. I turn to the other (Lady B) but she takes a step back. "I have a cold," she says.
Lady A promptly sidesteps away from her. Lady B notices. "Yes, do keep your distance. I don't want you to catch it."
"Rubbish," I say, and kiss her, anyway. "Besides," I add, "I don't go pinching other people's colds. Mine are all bespoke."
I am blasé about the contagiousness of colds and 'flu. I am comfortable with my unscientific belief that it's all rather exaggerated by the usual fear mongering. To this belief, I add the philosophy that, should I be wrong, and these viruses are eager to pounce on me at the first opportunity, then precautions are a waste of effort. They could just as easily leap on me on the Tube, in a restaurant, or at the newsagent.
Lady A and Lady B, far from appreciating my mark of steadfast friendship, eye me with suspicion. They would clearly label me as mad, if doing so would not make them a little mad by association. Perhaps they harbour the fear of catching my madness, if they come too close.
A few years ago, when the menace of swine 'flu swept across the nation, there was a large poster displayed in the window of my local Boots the Chemist:
The doctors surgery down the road carried a similar sign. In other terms, if you are ill, do not go to a doctor or a pharmacy.
With the Government's cuts to the National Health Service, perhaps small bells should be issued to British residents. This way, anyone suffering from a cold or 'flu, would be required by law to ring the bell when circulating in public places, so that non affected people can keep away. Like lepers did, in the Middle Ages.
A few years ago, a friend of mine was hospitalised with pneumonia. She was kept in isolation, apparently highly contagious. Before allowing me in, the nurse made sure I smeared antibacterial gel on my hands. Then she instructed me to wear a curious outfit of cellophane, composed of an apron, cap, gloves and a beak shaped mask (not unlike the one worn by the Plague Doctor in the Commedia dell'Arte). This level of precaution made me wonder how much more care they must take at the School of Tropical Medicine. Thus accoutred, I entered my friend's room. She lifted her head from the pillow and peered. "Who's that?" she asked.
I pulled the elasticated mask away from my face for a moment, to reveal my identity.
A few minutes later, the doctor arrived, wearing no protective gear whatsoever. When I voiced my surprise in my Dalek voice behind my mask, she said. "I'm not worried," she said, sitting down on my friend's bed. "She'd have to cough into your mouth for you to catch anything."
I promptly removed the cellophane off me, and rammed it into the nearest bin.
It seems to my medically uneducated mind, that the more antibiotics, antibacterial and antiseptic substances we use to fight germs and viruses, the stronger and more invincible the critters are likely to become. Like the New York cockroaches that grew large to spite DDT. Whatever happened to building up our immune system? Would it not be more beneficial, long term, to strengthen our antibodies rather than waste energy on devising various plots against bugs? Perhaps a shift in focus should be considered here.
Again, it seems obvious to my limited intellect, that if everything was as infectious as our health illuminati want us to believe, then the life expectancy of doctors and nurses would be so low, who would want to study medicine at all?
It's late October and soon, no doubt, the posters will start going up warning us against the impending arrival of the 'flu.
I wonder if they will have the flight arrival details.