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Brother Mark is a pseudonym of The Reverend Dr Robert Jaggs-Fowler, a clergyman, physician, writer and poet. His biography can be found at: www.robertjaggsfowler.com

Monday, April 10, 2006

Beware the Common Cold

I now have undeniable evidence which confirms that which every man has known for decades and, quite possibly, for centuries. I speak of the dangerous effects of the common cold.

Women are always quick to scorn when their men folk succumb to the onslaught of this insidious disease. ‘He has only got a cold,’ they will say. ‘Slightest sign of a sniffle and he thinks he is dying,’ they relate to their female friends with a degree of disdain for their (supposed) loved one.

To my male readership: I must plead with you to take no notice of such derision. The common cold is dangerous and we ignore it at our peril. Let me explain further.

One week ago, I had the grave misfortune to develop a sore throat. Within the course of a day, it progressed to all the usual symptoms of fever, sinusitis, headache, cough and general malaise. As usual, in true manly fashion, I dosed myself with paracetamol, staggered to work and kept the shoulder to the wheel for the entire week. By the weekend, I was feeling considerably improved and there the story would end if I had not then developed conjunctivitis.

It wasn’t obvious at first. The eyes were a little sore and tired, no doubt due to the added strain of working throughout the week when so patently unwell, I mused. However, by this morning it was clear that it was more than just that and I would have to start the antibiotic drops.

It was then that the real danger loomed – and hence the proof of my theory. You see, if I hadn’t succumbed to the common cold I would not have developed conjunctivitis. If I hadn’t developed conjunctivitis I would not have tried to cut my left ear off whilst shaving. Proof enough, if ever it was needed.

What at first seemed like the tiniest of cuts, turned out to be a shaven earlobe. Minus skin, such wounds do not stop bleeding very easily, as I found out despite the application of firm pressure and a trial of styptic pencil. In the end there was nothing for it. I spent the day with a plaster firmly adherent to my ear.

Now, people vary in their response to such situations. Most patients gave nothing more than a mild smirk and then tried to pretend that they hadn’t noticed. My medical partners were slightly more forthcoming with ‘are you wearing an earring?’ and 'Van Gogh was depressed when he did that; do you need to see a psychiatrist?' to simply stating the obvious such as ‘you have got a plaster on you ear!’

It was one’s so called loved ones who were the cruellest. ‘I haven’t been able to stop laughing all day,’ related my wife on my return home this evening. Then, when I said that I hadn’t heard something, as quick as a flash she was back with ‘I am not surprised – you have only got one ear! I’ll have to start calling you Vincent!’

Even my mother, having heard the jungle drums, got in on the act with a mid-morning text message asking ‘Do you need me to donate a pint of blood?’ and ‘Have you got a self-portrait?’

I shall take no notice. To every man I say, beware the common cold and what it can lead to. My advice is to take the week off work and break out the port and brandy. Oh, and best grow a beard until you are absolutely sure that the danger has passed.

As for me, I have this sudden urge to go and paint some sunflowers…

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