Sunday, February 18, 2007


Ham Shanks Secret Diary - Part 117

Ham Shanks Secret Diary w/e 18th Feb 2007

You will have gathered from my last couple of diaries that I’ve not been very well of late. My manflu progressed into a genuine illness; a chest infection. But fear not, the National Health Service provided me with some fast acting modern antibiotics. Unfortunately these did little to resolve my chest infection; they did however loosen my bowels in a disturbingly rapid and noisy fashion. This would have been lovely had I been constipated, but I wasn’t. After a week of hacking up my lungs and pebble dashing the cludge I decided it would be prudent to visit the Doctor again.

Ok Mr Shanks if you’d just like to lift up your shirt’ I obliged, wincing as the chilly metal stethoscope touched my skin ‘deep breath in ….. and out’ my head was starting to spin as I took several wheezy lungfuls of air ‘in …. and out’, ‘feeling a wee bit light headed now Doc’ I pleaded as he continued to scan my back and chest ‘and in …. and out’ the crackly noise from my lungs was audible without the use of a stethoscope so I wasn’t quite sure why he was making me hyperventilate to the point of collapse ‘Ok Mr Shanks you can sit down now’ I stumbled gratefully into a seat ‘well you’ve definitely got an infection

Had I been able to muster the power of speech I would have replied ‘Duh!’ but as it was I settled for clutching grimly on to the edge of his desk while I waited for the room to stop spinning ‘These new antibiotics should sort you out Mr Shanks’ he handed me another prescription, ‘but as a precaution we better get a sample’, ‘a sample?’, ‘yes’, ‘of what?’, ‘sputum’, ‘spu-what?’, ‘some of that gunge in your lungs Mr Shanks, cough and spit into this and then either return it to the front desk, or you can drop it off at the hospital lab, whatever is easier for yourself’ he labelled up a clear plastic phial and handed it to me ‘and make sure you provide the sample before you start taking the new antibiotics

Ten minutes later I was parked in the car park of the hospital laboratory staring at the small plastic container in my hands ‘c’mon Ham, get it over and done with and then you’ll feel better’ My problem was that the natural reaction after a cough is to swallow not spit (are you listening ladies) so every time I hacked up a ‘sample’ I kept swallowing it ‘och for fuuuucksaaaake’ I muttered after devouring yet another excellent specimen ‘ok Ham cough and spit, cough and spit, concentrate man!’ the tickling sensation started building up in my chest and I could feel a good cough shaping up ‘cough..hhh..hhhc.cough..hoooaargchhspiiiit!’ …….

‘Well that could have gone better’ I mumbled whilst gingerly wiping the dashboard clean. The small plastic container having remained completely spotless throughout my expectoration ‘Second time lucky Ham’ …….

Twenty minutes later I knocked on the door of the laboratory, it was answered by a prim middle aged woman in a white lab coat ‘Can I help you sir?’, ‘yes I’ve got a specimen to drop off for analysis’ she looked blankly at my empty hands ‘what specimen?’, ‘over there’ I replied, gesturing over my shoulder and dropping my car keys into her unresisting hand ‘just take a swab anywhere from the windscreen or dashboard and you’ll be fine’, ‘it’s the burgundy coloured Peugeot 106’ I continued as she stared at me in slack jawed disbelief ‘don’t worry about me, I’ll get a bus home’

Popping into the chemist on my way home I picked up the new prescription plus some lemsip and three boxes of man-size soft andrex tissues (enriched with balsam) whatever the smeg balsam is. My runny nose was positively streaming now and I had learnt the hard way the folly of ‘economy’ tissues. Might as well have blown my nose with a piece of sandpaper, it certainly looked like it had been rubbed down with a black and decker. Distress flares aren’t as red.

Not only did I look like a famous reindeer but I had also lost my sense of smell and taste as a result of contracting the dreaded manflu. This was particularly galling for a fatboy like me who enjoys his food. Even strong pungent aromas like garlic, ginger and curry were totally odourless to me. It’s only when you’ve lost your sense of smell that you appreciate how much it contributes to flavour.

Fed up with eating bland food I made an effort to spice up my dinner by spreading liberal quantities of horseradish and hot English mustard on top of everything. Warily I tucked in, I needn’t have been so cautious, not so much as a hint of heat or flavour ‘Hmm interesting’ rummaging in the fridge I found an old jar of ‘sambal’ This is an Indonesian condiment made from very hot chillies and, eeeer, well that’s it really. I added a thick layer on top of the mustard and sank my teeth in for a second time, still nary a trace of flavour, although my eyes did begin to water somewhat.

‘Hold on’ I thought ‘this could actually be a blessing’, ‘what the feck are you on about Ham?’ I hear you mumble. Think about it, large amounts of vitamin C are alleged to have beneficial effects when you’re suffering a cold as do ‘medicinal amounts’ of garlic. What is an extremely rich source of vitamin C? Onions that’s what! Six times as much vitamin C as an orange, or so they say. If that’s the case then surely a garlic and onion smoothie should be of great benefit?

After much trial and error my recommended recipe for the optimum smoothie would be; a pound of onions, three bulbs of garlic and a litre of grapefruit juice. Mmmmm delicious, or should I say tasteless, what a winner. I was just gulping down my third smoothie when the doorbell rang ‘who can that be?’ I wondered.

I should have guessed, middle of the day, middle of the week ‘Good afternoon sir, have you thought about letting Jesus enter your life?’ I rolled my eyes ‘No thank you’ I replied in an exasperated sigh. As usual he continued on regardless ‘God gave Jesus for y-‘ well he continued up until the wave of garlicky onion hit him full in the face. Eyes watering and face draining to a pale green colour he tried to compose himself. Fair play to him though, his faith must have been strong to soldier on in the face of my vitamin onslaught ‘our saviour chhgnff he died on t.t.hggm’, I leaned forward till out noses nearly touched ‘On the whaaaaat?’ I enquired, making sure to exhale for as long as possible

He leaned back grimacing as his cheeks puffed out like Dizzy Gillespie’s, but without the trumpet. I know it’s cruel but I had to carry on. Taking a fresh swig of my smoothie I leant forward again and breathed ‘Was that on the cross or the crotch you said?’, ‘Oh sweegnnfffmmmt Jeeeeesuooaarrghhh’ he turned and ran. I waved happily after him before shutting the door and grinning ‘I’m going to have to patent this stuff’


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