I woke up in the middle of the night feeling like I’d smoked 50 Cuban cigars one after the other inside a one-man tent at 20,000 feet. Breathless.
It can only mean one thing. That I haven’t started smoking again. I’m not trying to free Cuba. And I haven’t developed emphysema. It must be my old nemesis.
I’ve never really suffered from hayfever, but this week has been one punctuated by coughing, crying, sneezing and swearing. I personally thank the clown who sixty years ago decided to line every street with Platane trees. They were favoured because they are resistant to pollution, disease, drought, flood, hurricane and nuclear attack. Almost indestructible. Unfortunately, they’re gigantic pollen factories that have been showering us with their toxic load for the past few weeks.
That was from Blogley in Lyon 35 on 31 March last year. Today is 25 April. And according to the paper, it’s going to be a bad one: the trees literally bursting. So much so that I fear an almighty ejaculation of pollen will enter every crevice of my body as I walk to work tomorrow.
I might even hire out one of those radiation suits from a fancy dress shop and do my lesson in it if it all comes to pass. Pass instructions to my students using coloured flags. TEFL in semaphore. I might write a book about it because last year was terrible. I’ve never felt so bunged up. As though someone had filled my entire respiratory system up with glue. A walking Pritstick.
Waking up in the night wheezing like an 80 year old asthmatic. The sensation of drowning in my own phlegm. Sitting up and gasping for whatever air there was. Looking for the hole in the ice, running out of breath. The closest I’ve come to believing I was going to die and understanding for the first time in my life how important it was to breathe.
This year will be better as I’m hoping to have produced the antigens able to cope with the poisonous pollen. I really don’t want to have to take the pills again. Those highly hallucinogenic capsules that made the windows of my classroom shimmer and then drip drip away like sheets of melting ice. The books on my shelves dancing to the rhythmic tune created by the singing kettle on my desk which was now a giant turtle. It was all very strange, so hopefully I can get away this year with a pocket pack of Kleenex and a bottle of eye drops. Or a gun.
There is also no wind, which last year exacerbated the problem ten fold. The pollen not just floating into your eyes but sand blasted into them by a howling gale. I remember seeing people walking around wearing ski goggles and surgical masks giving the city a menacing dystopian edge.
Perhaps a mask would be good. A useful investment. Protect my lungs from the onslaught. Or head to the mountains? Or the sea. Which is where I’m going the week after next. After my birthday next Friday. My 39th.
I’ve been told by many that this is the worst birthday of them all. A real sickener. A total let down. No reason to celebrate and quite frankly I would be happy to skip straight to my 40th and be done. Spare the agony of the countdown.
And why not? I’m sure I’ll enjoy my 40th and the time thereafter. Finally able to relax in the knowledge that I can wear a flat cap, a checked shirt, sensible shoes and Farah trousers without anybody saying I look old fashioned. Able to sit in a pub on my own drinking thick Yorkshire bitter staring at the pictures of hunting dogs and steam ships loosely tacked onto the walls. Able to get old as disgracefully as I choose. Stop pretending to be grown up.
But first, I have to deal with the pollen. I don’t want to have a respiratory seizure at 38. I think Dylan Thomas died at 38, but I’m not Dylan Thomas. I’m Philip ‘Oggers’ Ogley and I have a lot of living left to do. Therefore I think the best solution to the pollen crisis would be to shut myself indoors until next Friday. Cancel my classes. Stock up on steak, potatoes, biscuits and beer and ride out the storm. Spend the last days of my 39th year in bed asleep. Then wake up in my 40th raring to go…
…Blogley 54, 388
Turned 80 yesterday. Can’t believe I made it this far. The Earth looks good from here. What’s left of it. I’ve just been told I’m in perfect health and will probably live until 200. Apparently it was the pollen. The reason people on Earth rarely lived beyond 100. Clogs up the system. Like glue. Funny actually, as I remember thinking that in Lyon all those years ago, that this stuff can’t be good for you. The night I thought I was going to die in that bed-sit in Guillotiere. I was right. Lucky I got out when I did. Always trust your instinct. Never ignore it. It may save your life. Until next time. Oggers.