How germ-phobic TV adverts may be making us sick – Susan Morrison

Letting kids play in the dirt as we once did could make them healthier
Letting kids play in the dirt as we once did could make them healthier
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The modern world is obsessed with cleanliness in a way that strikes Susan Morrison as decidedly unhealthy.

A wonderful man called Professor Mel Greaves is obsessed with childhood leukaemia, and how to stop it.

He has discovered that babies who might go onto develop this terrible disease seem to have a genetic glitch and then, if their immune systems are not triggered in the first year of their lives by a minor infection, the little battlers in their bodies have no idea what germs and viruses look like.

If this doesn’t happen, leukaemia can rear its head, the body goes ­bonkers and launches a sort of nuclear option, which, like a real atomic bomb, wipes out everything, including the child.

Cases of childhood leukaemia are rising, incidentally, year on year.

Professor Greaves is working on a drink that can stimulate that immune system and get it in Premier League mode for taking on all incomers. I have another idea. Let kids get dirty.

We here in the West live in a world dominated by cleanliness. Hardly an ad break goes by without some deranged woman appearing on telly writhing about on her carpet explaining that her floors are really clean, as the family Labrador pads past with a guilty look on its face, probably because it just left a sizable doggy doo in the kitchen.

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How clean do you really need your carpet? How often do you snort your own pile? Are you actually eating your dinner off your Axminster? Why aren’t you wearing slippers like a normal person? Good god, woman, if you are that germ phobic, what’s the bloody dog doing there?

Facewipes are slowly choking the oceans, but I see them everywhere being used to clean down Junior after one of those ice cream incidents that could just be passed off as performance art.

Folks my age didn’t get wipes for our fizzogs. Mum spat on a hanky, used, naturally, and which had been lurking up her sleeve for the best part of a day, then gave us a vigorous going over. Mine still tries it if I don’t stop her in time.

Babies crawled on floors that never saw a deep-clean vacuum cleaner but did have a passing relationship with a Bex Bissel. Dummy spat out onto a busy shop floor? No worries, mum picks it up, sticks it in her own mouth then shoves it in the relevant baby orifice, all the while continuing her conversation. It may seem hard to do, but sometimes down and dirty is the way ahead.

During that last blazing weekend of the Fringe I had sat myself down next to the water feature in St Andrew Square. We had a combination of heat, sunshine, water and children. You can imagine what was happening in the pool.

Behind me I heard a gentle, concerned American woman say: “You can’t go in the water, honey, the water is full of bad germs, and they make you sick.”

She was talking to a beautiful little boy. “That water,” she said, “is dangerous.”

The wee American boy looked crestfallen as the lecture about germs, bacteria and viruses went on and on. At one point she mentioned Ebola, which I think was taking things a little too far.

The gang in the water had stopped moving. They sensed a brother in trouble. One Braveheart ­warrior bellowed: “Come ‘n huv a waterfight.”

Ms American Mom’s battle was lost. Our laddie launched himself, shoes, socks, clothes and all into the germy, bacteria ridden water and had a ball.

I like to think that laddie’s immune system got a right Scottish kick up the bahookie.

Maoris want to squash word bid

Air New Zealand have flown into turbulence because they have tried to trademark the word ‘kia ora’. The phrase means ‘hello’ or ‘welcome’ in Maori.

The Maori nation has risen and said, back off, mate, that’s our word. Quite right, too. Think of our response if they tried to legally stop Scots randomly saying ‘hiya!’

Holidays in the Highlands would just stop. Everyone knows that no walk in a remote glen is possible without encountering at least two hikers and woman in a bobble hat. All must be acknowledged with a hearty ‘hiya!’ or they whisper about you in the heather for weeks.

I’m mortified, since to me, Kia Ora was that weirdly strong orange diluting juice. The most important thing about Kia Ora was that it glowed faintly in the dark, which made it the ultimate first strike hangover drink. You know, that moment at 2am when you make up from a dream about little men chasing you with soda fountains.

Too early to source Irn-Bru, but from the kitchen shelf, Kia Ora would give off a pale, but reassuring light, very much as I imagine the Holy Grail to emanate.

I should like to apologise to Maoris everywhere for this cultural appropriation, and if Kia Ora is still on sale in Scotland, may I suggest we rename it to ‘Howzitgaun’?