Tag Archives: swine flu

This Little Piggy

There is an old Irish expression: “Tá me ar muin na muice”. It is a reply sometimes given when you are asked how you are doing, and the literal translation is “I am on the pig’s back”.

You give this reply if you are doing well, as apparently a pig’s back is a splendid place to be, though I can come up with about thirty better places without putting any real thought into it at all. People back then obviously had simpler needs. 

Another, almost equally old, Irish institution is the Just a Minute quiz on Larry Gogan’s radio show. Larry has been a DJ on RTE since radio consisted of a man playing a record on a gramophone attached to a really big ear-trumpet and placed beside an open window, and some of the replies given by members of the public during his quick-fire quiz are the stuff of legend. While most (“What was Hitler’s first name?” “Heil”) are obviously apochryphal, one that is true occurred when he asked “complete the saying ‘As happy as…'”, expecting the answer ‘Larry’, but receiving instead the equally accurate ‘a pig in shit’ (and,in fairness, he just said “Oh. Er, correct”, and carried on).

So, why all the pig references?

Today I had my swine flu injection. I am therefore firmly in the saddle upon Pinky, am as merry as Perky in manure, and am worried that this sentence has some hidden smutty meaning that I don’t in any way intend.  

It’s not like I even asked for it. I never really thought about getting it, because, you see, I don’t usually get sick. 

I do know that at this stage those of you who read this blog regularly are counting upon your fingers, going “blackouts, stopped heart, forehead-scarring, pacemaker, depression, derealisation, being over fifty,” and are now thinking of adding amnesia and dementia to the list before you run out of counting-fingers, and I know the above statement sounds a little odd coming from a man who’s very blogname is derived from the fact that he has an artificial implant, and not for cosmetic or, er, inadequacy reasons either.

But you know what I mean. The issues on my Medical CV, many though they are, don’t count. Apart from them I don’t tend to get sick in the way that normal people do, i.e., colds, flu, coughs or whatever peculiar affiction it is that causes people on my train in the morning to snuffle and snurckle like (and the theme is back) a pig trying to eat a tennis ball through a surgical glove.

So I listened to the debate about the injections, sympathised fully with the uncertainties felt by pregnant friends (congrats & best wishes, by the way, K8), but had not really felt the whole thing applied to me in any way, since I never catch any of this stuff.

Then this morning I’d to go for a blood test, ordered by my shrink, since apparently there’s a very small chance that the super new drugs he has put me on might damage my liver (I’ll be really pissed off if they do – if he wants to damage my liver all he has to do is ask and I’ll go to the pub more often). Anyway, my doctor happened to be in reception when I arrived, she said to the nurse “it’s ok, I’ll do it”, and while she was doing the test she said “actually, we could probably argue you’re in the high-risk health category, so I can give you the swine-flu jab”, and she did it.

So, will it work? I’ll let you know. First inclinations are good, though. She said one of the things it does is make your left arm really sore, and it certainly hasn’t let me down on that. I have a lump the size of an apple on my arm, and yell like a (oh, God, stop) stuck pig if I brush against anything. I suspect the mercury in the injection might be rising up my arm like in a thermometer as I get warmer.

Of course, this will probably be my last post for about a week, as God didn’t create a world as weird as the one we live in without having a very dry sense of humour.

And writing, on a blog, on the internet, effectively potentially telling the whole galaxy, that I never catch anything is really just asking for it.

Swine-y Todd, Flying Squad

Our company has a Swine Flu Committee.

We met for the first time yesterday. (Yes, of course I’m on it, that’s the kind of thing that always happens to me, though in this case I’m curious as to why. I spent a lot of the meeting looking at the six people in the group trying to figure out why we were the six specific ones asked to join. In my own case I finally decided that, as the virus is especially dangerous to both the elderly and to those with underlying health problems, they were covering both those angles by having me).

This is us...

This is us...

I got quite excited when I was asked to join. I pictured us as a pseudo-scientist group called the Anti Coughing, Hawking and Oozing Organisation (ACHOO). We would wear space-suits with our logo (the Flying Snot) on the left breast. Whenever anyone displayed any symptoms we would burst in from all directions like the scientists in ET, and the offender would be dragged away.

Alternatively I imagined we might be more sinister and clandestine. If someone sneezed we would glance at one another, tap our (clean) nose with our (sterlised) finger, and the following morning the employee would be simply gone, his cubicle empty, and with HR having no record of him ever having existed.

The reality, of course, was a bit more mundane, though our name -we’re called the Pandemic Team – is way cooler than my one. We discussed different types of hand-cleaning materials, argued over which posters were too disgusting to put up in the kitchen, and five of the six made the sobering discovery that only one person out of the 110 in the company knows how to do the payroll (by God, whatever drugs are out there, they’re going to make sure I get them).

Then we went out and sent round a company-wide e-Mail about prevention, care and how to recognise the symptoms. One such symptom that we mentioned (and we cut-and-pasted this from an official document) is having a temperature of 28 degrees. It’s a measure of how seriously our e-mail was read that only GoldenEyes (who already has all the handwipes, etc, on her own desk, she’s convinced she’s going to get this) pointed out that this should probably read 38 degrees.

She is, of course, right. If your temperature is 28 degrees you are not a swine-flu sufferer, you’re a frog.

The World Isnae Enough

“Fergie Denies Plot to Remove Agent” (headline in Evening Herald).


The phone rang in the Manchester United Players’ Lounge. Agent 11, Ryan Giggs, picked it up, listened and then handed it to Agent 10. “It’s for you,” he said.

“Cheers”, said Agent 10, “put the phone on scramble”.

“Don’t need to”, said Agent 11, “it’s Fergie”.

Agent 10 took the phone and listened to the dulcet (*) tones of the head of MI6, Sir Alex “Fergie” Ferguson. “Seeyoujummy hootshoots muttermuttermcmumble absolooly gityerfuckenarse up here noo”, he heard. (*Dulcet, by the way, is an old Scottish word meaning “sounding like a cat being passed through a bin lorry”).

“I think he wants to see me,” said Agent 10, and headed out the door to the “Manager’s Office”, as Fergie’s room was known.

It was now over 30 years since MI6 gave up its cover as trading company Universal Exports and assumed the guise of a leading football club instead. The new cover was far more beneficial. As Manchester United, MI6 could sign Agents of many nationalities without having to explain themselves. They always had an excuse for travelling abroad in large numbers. And the income from the sale of  United shirts was so large that it entirely financed the Gadgetry Department.

See what I mean?

See what I mean?

It also meant that they no longer had to have female Agents, which was an advantage since they spent most of their time on missions falling in love with their opposite number and going around in revealing attire.

They had not expected that the team would actually prove so successful, but in hindsight this was not totally surprising. After all, expertise in moving about quietly and unnoticed made their forwards very hard to mark, while the fact that the defenders knew six different ways to silently disable an opponent meant that they weren’t troubled whenever an opposing corner-kick was swung into their penalty area. Not after the first corner, anyway.

Now MI6 had a problem. An independent foreign Agent, Kia Joorabchian, had taken total control of one of MI6’s Agent, Carlos Tevez, using a mind-control technique (he offered him 32 million pounds). The men at the top had decided not to pay this man, and had directed Fergie to get rid of him. They had told him to send his top man.

His top man was busy, however, so in a moment of weakness he had sent Agent 10.

Agent 10

Agent 10

Agent 10 gave the secret knock and entered Fergie’s room. He took off his baseball cap and threw it towards the hatstand, and they both watched as it bounced off the wall and spun on the floor on its crown, like the centrepiece in a game of ‘Spin the Tortoise’. “Allright, boss,” said Agent 10,  “the name’s Rooney. Wayne, er…” he stopped, took a card from his pocket and looked at it. “…Rooney”, he finished.

Fergie sighed. Wayne Rooney was a Special Agent. There is more than one possible meaning to that sentence.

Now Fergie had to hear his mission report. He was dreading it. He had not forgotten one of Agent 10’s earlier missions, where he had been sent to interrogate a granny in Liverpool and “find out everything she knows”. And by God he had. Some of the stuff the granny turned out to know still caused Fergie to wake up sweating in the middle of the night.

“Sit doon, Agent Rooney, I need to ken hoo ye got on wi’ tha’ mission I gave ye.”

“Well, boss,” said Rooney, wondering vaguely who Ken was, “I think I did really well this time. First of all I got some equipment from Um.”

“You mean M?”

“No, Um. That’s what I call the Serb bloke we have playing at centre-back. I can’t pronounce his real name.”

“Nemanja Vidic?”

“Yeah, whatever.”

“What sort of stuff did you get from him?”

“Well, hair gel, Lynx deodorant, stuff like that”.

Fergie started to feel a sinking sensation. “Agent 10, what exactly was your mission?”

“Well, you told me to find Kia Joorabchian…”


“… and you explained that that wasn’t a Korean car…”


“… you explained that it was this Agent who was messing our Carlos about…”


“…. and you said you wanted him taken out.”


“Well, I took him out. We went for a few beers and then went trying to pull biihds.” (I’m sorry, you try writing “birds” in a Liverpool accent).

“Och, mon,” said Fergie, “that wasnae what I meant. When I say I want somone taken oot I mean I want them did. Though, o’ course, if ye were caught I’d have to disavoo any kenness o’ your actions.”

Agent 10 hung his head. “Sorry boss, I didn’t understand.” Then he brightened. “Hang on, though, there’s a chance he might have caught that swine flu”.

Fergie looked at him excitedly. That would be perfect – topical, with no known cure, and completely untraceable back to MI6. “Really? How did ye manage to give him that?”

“Well, at the end of the night we went for a Mexican.”

Behind the Mask

Some thoughts, not so much about swine flu, but more about the mask pandemic which is sweeping Mexico and may soon take over the world…

1. Why aren’t pigs wearing the masks?

swine-flu-masks2. If you decide to cheer yourself up by decorating your mask, do you wear a second mask while you are doing so, or do you draw on it while it’s on your face using a mirror?

3. If, while travelling on public transport, you suddenly and snottily sneeze all over the inside of your mask, is it permissible to remove it, or do you have to sit in slowly-congealing discomfort until the end of your journey?

4. How did everyone get the masks so quickly? Is there a company which has been stock-piling them ever since SARS, quietly reassuring its bank manager “no, no sales this month either, but don’t worry, our day will come”? Is it the same company that has massive stocks of US flags in Middle East countries, patiently waiting for the next time people suddenly feel the urge to burn one?

I’m sorry, sometimes I have a low boredom threshold at work.


Does anyone remember SARS?

This mighty disease appeared out of nowhere in 2003 started, by the sound of it, by pirates. It briefly threatened to conquer the whole world, then faded into obscurity, like a medical version of Oasis.

Our wonderful government’s reaction at the time was to ban the Down Syndrome children of five countries from participating in the Special Olympics here, an event for which they had presumably been training for years. This action might have been deemed harsh but prudent if they had followed this argument to its logical conclusion and banned all travel to and from those countries, but businessmen were still allowed to go where they wished, since business is more important than, well, life.

Is he laughing or sneezing?

Is he laughing or sneezing?

And now we have the swine flu sweeping in from Mexico (I can’t hear the phrase without imagining Inspector Clousseau sneezing and then muttering “shvine fleu”).  More potent than SARS, more threatening than bird flu, apparently deadlier even than manflu, impossible though that sounds.

Expect our government to ban us from wearing ponchos or using piggy banks.

Oh, and people at the Munster v Leinster match on Saturday will not be allowed to do the Mexican wave.