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Oink! Oink! Oiiiiink!

July 19, 2009

Well it looks like my London Borough, Tower Hamlets is top of the UK league for… Swine flu. Yes there is indeed much to celebrate, but don’t all clamour to congratulate me at once. You may catch something.

 Like an Oscar nominee who knows without a shadow of a doubt that s/he is going to get the gong, I was not at all surprised that we, the beleaguered people of East London had acquired this dubious honour. There would’ve been stiff competition though. I think only Newham, Hackney, Camden and Lewisham could’ve beaten us. As it turns out they are among the top ten. I wonder if now is the time to start wearing the masks I have seen strapped to the faces of the worried well in the past week, particularly as more people are added to the roll call of death. Consistency does not seem to be the culture of either the Government or the medical profession as mixed messages are added to this viral soup so the general public don’t know if they’re Arthur or Martha. Because there is no clarity as to the seriousness of this, people are finding ways to stock up on Tamiflu (a silly name that brings to mind sanitary products, but I digress) and are driving the local GPs nuts as they try to field the upsurge in calls and visits. I’m sure the calls went up tenfold, quite rightly, from worried parents when an apparently healthy six year old succumbed to this disease. Up until that point the deaths were sad, but underlying health problems in those cases meant that most of us thought we would be OK. Well not anymore, ladies and gentlemen.

 Now the panic is jostling to take its rightful place in the front of our fertile minds so it can drive us down the familiar road of irrationality.  Every cough and sneeze is seen as the potential for contamination. I don’t think people have looked at each other with such suspicion since those heady days of the rucksack and Asian-looking geezer panic in the wake of 7/7. I have been complaining for years about the general public’s apparent inability to put their hand over their mouths whenever their body gets ready to expel the irritant. I can’t even begin to tell you the amount of times that supposedly sensible adults have coughed freely into my face with no sense of shame, or simply no sense. I also have the pleasure of encountering that other lovely discharge – spit. It’s everywhere in this borough and it makes me want to forcibly feed a bar of soap to the guilty parties. I’m amazed I don’t yet have Tuberculosis. That was my only worry until recently. Well it looks like the payback is coming now. No amount of lovely leaflets through the door, TV and radio advertising telling you to ‘catch it, kill it, bin it’, or panic advertising about the efficacy of various cleaning products will save us from this one. This is simply because the people who were bought up to use their hand to limit the spread of diseases or the more thoughtful in general will continue to do so and the ill bought up and selfish will continue to go their own sweet way. Just as a dangerous driver would boast they have never had an accident without turning round to see the mess they’ve left behind, so these people will hack and sneeze at will and not give a monkey’s arse about the people around them as they drop like flies.

 So come to Tower Hamlets, the spit capital of London! Watch the people dance on the thoroughfare as they swerve to avoid the litter of phlegm trying to hitch a lift on the sole of their shoe! Take the opportunity to work on building your immunity to communicable diseases now that Swine flu is on the menu.

Come and join us. It really will be fun.

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