Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Curious Incident of the Bite in the Night

apologies to Mark Haddon


I'm writing this while looking out over the valley. The weather is now cooler but the sun still shines; this really is my favourite time of year. We have had the first autumn rainfall and the hedgerows and fields are no longer shades of khaki but brilliant green; the air is fresh, the dew glistens on the stonework and the streets are once again empty of pink tattooed flesh. For now, in my few square metres of this beautiful part of the world all is well. But life, as we know, is about checks and balances and the past week has not been too great.
It was Thursday morning, Sophie was in the UK for a few days and I awoke around seven o’clock feeling somewhat rough and with a high temperature, shivering body and a strange feeling in the face. Staggering into the bathroom I looked in the mirror but what looked back wasn’t me. This person had a lumpen face twice the size of mine, an off centre nose with peeling skin and nostrils in which you could hide your shoes . I don’t know what a stranger would have made of it but it frightened the life out of me.
Reckoning I needed some anti-histamine, I headed off to the pharmacy where there were two pharmacists on duty. The woman in front of me waiting to be served, turned to wish me bom dia and, seeing my face quickly jumped into the other queue. Wow, I thought, now I know how lepers must have felt and when the pharmacist took one look at me and said “Health Centre, NOW” I started to get worried.
At the Health Centre I was poked and prodded, given a prescription, charged €50.00 and told I had Herpes. By now I was beside myself, herpes, how could I have herpes - I mean - you know – there’s only one way of catching herpes. Isn’t there? I know it stays dormant – but 40 years dormant? How do I tell Sophie? How do tell the kids? How do I tell the pneumatic blonde cashier at the supermarket – forget the last bit – untrue. I knew it was a wrong diagnosis but I was still worried.
Looking at the prescription in my hand I realised that I couldn’t go to my regular pharmacy brandishing possible anti-herpes medication without raising a few eyebrows so I took my anonymous self to an anonymous pharmacy where I bought the potions anonymously and drove around aimlessly for a while trying to collect my thoughts. Eventually common sense took over and I made an appointment for the following day to see my own doctor.
And just as well. He took one look at me, said it certainly wasn’t herpes and that the first doctor had mis-translated and meant shingles (evidently a similar strain) but it wasn’t that either. It was purely a nasty bite that had become infected during the night, probably from bacteria that was lodged under my fingernails and transferred when I unconsciously scratched at the bite.  I was given some antibiotics and some good advice that I would like to pass on.
Evidently there are some nasty spiders in the Algarve and when working in the garden or clearing out a shed/garage and particularly when collecting wood from the wood store – wear gloves, thick leather gloves, thick leather gloves that cover the wrist and after you have washed your hands rub some antiseptic gel under the nail. I know I will in future.

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