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The coronavirus is spreading – I have a bad cough, slimy feet and a bit of snot

For someone who has eaten unhealthy junk food all his life, I am surprisingly healthy. Although, unsurprisingly, given my diet, I have bad teeth.

I guess that’s the inevitable effect of a Scottish upbringing.

I have had slight toothache for a couple of weeks and went to see my dentist on Monday.

“I hear there’s a shortage of masks for dentists,” I said, “because loads of people are buying them as a result of the coronavirus scare.”

“Yes,” he said, “the trouble is they are mostly made in the Far East and most of the factories making them there are closed because of the coronavirus.”

This seems like it would be a very comforting situation if you were a virus. You would be a rather smug virus, having out-manoeuvred the opposition.

Britain is starting to take the coronavirus seriously. Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday announced measures the government is taking to combat it and repeated his advice that everyone should wash their hands with soap for the amount of time it takes to sing Happy Birthday To You twice.

I thought: Well, that’s going to please the copyright owners of Happy Birthday to You. But it turns out the good news (for us) is that copyright on the Happy Birthday song expired in the European Union on 1st January 2017, so it is free to sing. 

Every silver lining has a dark cloud, though. Bad news for some is that apparently sales of Corona Beer in the US have fallen by either 30% or 70% depending on which scare-mongering tabloid newspaper you read. The good news, though, as reported in the London Evening Standard’s business section yesterday, is that shares in at least one funeral group have surged in value amid hopes for a high death toll. Every shroud has a silver lining.

Al Jazeera has Tweeted images of deserted Italian tourist sites

My friend Sandy in Milan tells me that there “all schools from pre-schools to universities and everything in-between are closed; so are post offices, sports stadiums, cinemas and theatres. They have all been closed for one week and are now going to remain closed for a second week.”

Despite, as previously mentioned, being normally surprisingly healthy, for the last three weeks I have had a horrible, dry, hacking cough. This has nothing to do with coronavirus, but it is very useful for emptying carriages and getting seats in trains. A few days ago, I had a slight coughing fit and someone sitting two seats away moved to the next carriage.

It was done in a very British way. When we arrived at the next station, he got up and walked towards the doors as if he was going to alight, but he kept walking to the end of the carriage and beyond, into the next carriage. As he sat down, he slightly glanced back as if to check I had not followed him like some determined Angel of Death. 

Unjustly defamed by name – Corona Beer

I have always had an irritating dry cough since, I think, my twenties. At one company I worked for, I was nicknamed John ‘Irritating Cough’ Fleming, which I always felt was a rather inefficient nickname as it necessitated the use of four words instead of one.

My father had the same cough as long as I knew him, which was quite a long time. But this current cough I have is a different, nastier, hacking cough.

I had the same horrible cough a few months ago. It took about three weeks to clear up. I think I got it from writer Ariane Sherine’s 8-year-old daughter who, in turn, got it from her 2 or 3-year-old half-sister. 

I can’t remember her exact age. To a 2 or 3-year-old, one year is a long time. To me it flashes by from one Edinburgh Fringe to another, with comedians constantly obsessing and stressing about the past or upcoming Fringe for all twelve months in-between.

Anyway, I blame Ariane Sherine’s otherwise blameless daughter for my hacking cough.

So it is only fair that, in what may or may not have been an attempt at redemption, Ariane suggested something to me.

Last year, she published another book: Talk Yourself Better: A Confused Person’s Guide to Therapy, Counselling and Self-Help.

But her suggestion had nothing to do with that. I was just blatantly plugging the book.

People in Wuhan are now touching toes when they meet

Instead of suggesting I have therapy, she suggested that one way I might get rid of the cough was, before going to bed, to rub Vicks VapoRub – normally rubbed on the chest and/or throat – onto the soles of my feet. She had heard this worked. 

I waited for her to tell me this was a joke. She did not.

It sounded mad but, because I know the Chinese are obsessed by feet – acupuncturists love ‘em – I think it’s something to do with meridians – I thought I would give it a go. Also, apparently, people in Wuhan – the source of the coronavirus outbreak – instead of shaking hands when they meet are now touching toes (when wearing shoes). Strange but true,

So, for the last three nights, I have smeared Vicks VapoRub on the soles of my feet at night and worn socks in bed. It is not a good look.

But it seems to be working.

Either that or it’s just coincidence.

I will die never knowing.

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One UK comedian obsesses about a goat; another refuses to tell me a story

The last two days have been odd

The last two days have been odd… It all started with a goat in Oz

The last two days have been odd. I and my eternally-un-named friend have had colds and coughs for three weeks.

Yesterday morning in London, comedian Bob Slayer was trying to persuade me I should write a blog about Gary The Goat in Australia. As regular readers of this blog will know, earlier this year Bob traversed the Outback with Gary The Goat and his owner Australian comic Jimbo.

Now Jimbo has found himself in trouble with the law because Gary The Goat ate some grass and (the police allege) some flowers.

“This is Goatgate!” Bob tried to persuade me. It’s a must-do blog post!!!”

“I don’t know what the angle is,” I told him. “The story is basically Goat Eats Grass. That’s a Dog Bites Man story. It’s not interesting. Man Bites Dog and Then Eats Grass and Flowers would be a story. Goat Eats Grass and Flowers and Owner Gets Fined is like Dog Bites Man and Owner is Prosecuted. It’s not quirky. It’s normal.”

Gary the Goat in Australia with Jimbo

Gary the Goat (left) with Jimbo earlier this year in Australia

“This is Goatgate!” said Bob. “Gary The Goat’s Facebook page was on 400 likes at the start of this and it is now 8,500. The first post about this that went viral had 25,000 likes and it was seen by nearly half a million folks…”

“Gary The Goat has a Facebook page?” I asked.

“Yes, he does,” said Bob.

“It’s not unusual enough,” I told him, coughing.

Then I got a phone call from comedian Martin Soan.

“I’m running around putting the show together for tonight,” he told me. “I’ve a great blog for you, but I’ll forget it. I’ll tell you the title. Remind me tonight.”

“Y-e-e-e-s-s-s…” I said warily.

The Social Structure is Alive and Well in the NHS,” said Martin.

“Righto,” I said, coughing.

Last night, I went to Martin’s Pull The Other One comedy club Christmas show and party.

Bob Slayer on stage with a mop last night

Bob Slayer on stage with a hat & a mop last night

Bob Slayer was there. He told the audience a story about being employed to hang up dead Christmas turkeys which shat themselves. I think that was the story. He wore a Father Christmas hat and swept the stage a lot.

Afterwards, he told me: “Gary The Goat didn’t eat any flowers. Them coppers have invented that to try and justify their ridiculous actions. Anyway, the story is about the nanny state. And the fact that increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Award winning comedian Bob Slayer is in the thick of it and making a documentary with Brown Eyed Boy…”

“If Australia really were a nanny state,” I argued, “it would welcome goats.”

“That is the line!” said Bob triumphantly. “Gary is a Billy! It is about sexism!”

“It’s not unusual enough,” I told him, coughing.

Then comedian Charmian Hughes showed me a video on her phone. It appeared to show her dancing ballet in the middle of a three-lane motorway.

The 1812 Overture performed on stage last night

The 1812 Overture performed with cannon on London stage last night

After that, Martin Soan performed the 1812 overture with a cannon on stage, his wife Vivienne on clarinet and comedian Stephen Prost on trumpet. It was quite messy.

Afterwards, I said to Martin: “What about that blog idea? The Social Structure is Alive and Well in the NHS.

“If you stick that iPhone in my face,” he said, shouting over the loud music from DJ Ratsmilk, “I’ll dry up. I talked to Steve Frost today and – this is absolutely true – absolutely fucking true – But I’m not going to tell you the story now, because I’ll fuck it up.”

“You won’t,” I said.

“I will!” he shouted.

“Go on,” I shouted.

“I told Steve Frost today in the car,” he shouted, “about anal exploratory surgery. And, in the sketch on The Frost Programme with John Cleese and The Two Ronnies, it was… I didn’t even realise it. I should’ve been a stand-up doing it on stage and I would have been up there with Michael McIntyre. Well, that’s a lie. But Steve made me remember.”

“What?” I asked.

“It’s a genius story,” said Martin. “but I’m drunk.”

“So tell it,” I said.

“No, I can’t now, John!” shouted Martin over the music. “I’m drunk. I will fuck it up. It’s the rule of three, it’s comedy and it’s the National Health.”

“Tell me the story,” I insisted.

Martin Soan (left) introduces Vincent Figgins last night

Martin Soan (left) introduced Vincent Figgins, Edwardian animal impersonator, last night

“No!” said Martin. “I will not do it now!”

“I can blog about you not telling me the story,” I told him.

“In the sober light of day, I will tell you,” said Martin. “It is perfect, it’s the truth and it’s the rule of three. And it’s comedy. It happened to me in an exploratory anal situation.”

“In a hospital or in a toilet?” I asked.

“You’re just trying to wind me up and wind me in!” Martin shouted over the music. “You’re not going to get anywhere. It’s perfect. I do not want to fuck it up. Steve reminded me. He said it’s just genius, it’s true and it happened to me, but I’m not going to tell you now because I’ll just fuck it up. It was cool, though. Really cool. It’s perfect. And it’s true.”

“What is?” I shouted. “Have you seen the video of Charmian dancing in the middle of a three lane motorway?”

Then I had a coughing fit.

I went to bed at 3.45am.

At lunchtime today, my eternally-un-named friend suggested I put a cabbage leaf on my chest, to stop my coughing.

Crush the leaves with a rolling pin until the juice starts to appear,” she said, reading from a book called A Guide to Home Remedies. “Place three or four leaves over the chest area and cover with gauze. Then place a warm blanket over to keep in place…. So,” she added, “you could watch television while doing that.”

I looked at the page in the book.

“You can also,” I read out loud, “drink the juice of the cabbage sweetened with a teaspoon of honey.”

“We’ve got the juicer,” said my eternally-un-named friend, “so you can drink the juice.”

This is when the chest is tight with coughing,” I read out. “Cabbage has an extraordinary ability to draw out toxins.”

“There’s going to be a lot of onions,” said my eternally-un-named friend. “And garlic, maybe. And ginger. But you didn’t find a decent ginger the other day.”

“This means we are going to have to take a picture of a cabbage leaf on my chest,” I said.

CabbageOnChest

I am wary of the medicinal power of vegetables

“This means you might do it?” asked my eternally-un-named friend, with a surprising hint of hope in her voice.

“What’s the alternative?” I asked.

“A poultice of roasted onion, apparently,” she replied, “applied to the chest every two hours. Onions can also be drunk, it says.”

“They can’t be as drunk as Bob Slayer,” I said.

“Oh, John…” sighed my eternally-un-named friend reprovingly

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