A virus knocked the world cockeyed last week and for the first time in my life I became an emergency statistic.
Things began to go awry on the Friday night of The Ashes weekend. Blurred vision, rocketing temperature and nausea hit simultaneously and without warning. A lurch to the loo turned into one of those rubbery, slow-motion martial arts film sequences and I didn’t make it.
When the mop, bucket and Dettol were stowed away, my wife observed while soothing my brow that the bathroom floor had reminded her of a Jackson Pollock.
Not knowing my art from my elbow and at that moment not caring much, I took to my bed and clung to it for dear life until the following afternoon when we called the doctor.
Some hope. The surgery closes at weekends so the emergency clinic sent a community paramedic.
I didn’t hear the siren, but within half an hour I was being examined by a pleasant young bloke in a bright green boilersuit who took my temperature, tested my blood pressure, hooked me up to an ECG machine and administered an anti-nausea jab in less time than it takes to say Let’s hear it for NHS trusts.
He ruled out food poisoning and said there was a virus going round. It was a 48-hour thing and I’d probably be OK, but shouldn’t hesitate to ring again if I felt worse. I didn’t think that was possible.
Only half convinced that the condition wasn’t terminal, I drifted in and out of sleep on the sofa and woke in time to catch the Proms with all their last night daftness and contributions this year from orchestras and choruses in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland. The spirit of national unity engendered was a shot in the arm and I wallowed in the warm, gooey feeling that only a surfeit of jingoism can bring.
It didn’t last long. The lead story on the news that followed revealed that while the Belfast singers had been lulling us with Danny Boy, elsewhere in the city their Loyalist brethren had been knocking six bells out of each other in the worst street violence for more than a decade.
My vertical and horizontal holds remained skew-wiff for the rest of the weekend, but by Monday I was able to stumble with help to the doctor who diagnosed a viral infection of the middle ear and prescribed little yellow pills for the nausea.
I hit the sofa again and let the cricketers and the new-look rainbow hued Guardian (reassuringly as typo-strewn and brown rice as ever) kid me that the life of a couch potato wasn’t all bad.
By Wednesday, the vomiting had stopped, walking was less hit or miss and I went twelve hours without watching TV.
I switched on at ten and caught up with the news. The Ashes were safely back in their glass case, an Iraqi bomber had made a point by killing himself and 150 others, the United Nations summit had papered over the cracks on poverty, security and human rights and the UVF were still at it in Ulster.
With or without viruses, it’s a cockeyed world.