THERE are some universal truths that, for the Earth to continue spinning smoothly on its axis, must remain firmly and securely in place. Truths that simply make sense, so must be. They go something like this.
Scottish summers must be reliably rubbish, the umbrella as essential a part of the seasonal car boot contents as the tartan rug, the Swingball and the striped windbreak. Barbecues must be a wash-out. And flip-flops must only see the light of day when an emergency pair of shoes is required to put the bin out between downpours.
Disappointment in global sporting events must be assured, defeat snatched from the jaws of almost certain victory.
My twin brother must be at scout camp for our birthday, as he has been every year since short trousers and a woggle were nothing to be ashamed of. (I should add that he is now a grown-up, respectable scout leader, not a delusional pervert, forever stuck in a mental and physical limbo of 12 years old.) He will then immediately go on holiday with his family to Turkey for a fortnight. This has the convenient side-effect of ensuring I never need to think about buying him a present until at least the middle of August.
This year, I fear I may be living in some kind of alternative reality, a bit like Gwyneth Paltrow in Sliding Doors, except I’ve yet to have a pressing desire to get all my hair cut off and the only dealings I’ve had with John Hannah have been via the Co-op.
Central to my discombobulation has been the onset of an enormous stinker of a summer cold. At first, I thought it might be hay fever. Hay fever happens in summer. OK, not to me, never has done, but there’s a first time for everything. So I defended my nasal cavities with the kind of dogged determination Andy Murray demonstrated when two sets down in the Wimbledon quarter-finals, fighting back with an arsenal of pills and scooshy stuff that set me back a small fortune but promised instant relief.
Relief did not come. A week on, I have now arrived at the conclusion that I probably have a cold. Which, a bit like my brother deciding he isn’t going to do scout camp this year after all, is not just unexpected, it’s plain wrong.
While summer colds are considerably less common than winter colds, the symptoms can be much worse. They are passed on in the same way – contact with a carrier, probably during that recent long-haul flight, dammit, crammed into close proximity with several hundred smelly, germ-carrying hordes. But they can last longer, and are much harder to shake off. How can I drink my fail-safe cold remedy (Lemsip, manuka honey and a large measure of Glenlivet) in 27-degree heat, for heaven’s sake?
So here I am, at risk of blowing my small intestine out of my nostrils, a hacking cough that can be heard from space and producing enough mucus to fuel Torness. My nose is rubbed raw. And I still haven’t bought my brother a birthday present. ANYONE GOT A PROBLEM WITH THAT?
Still, at least it’s started raining again. n