Monday, 20 January 2020


The funniest  film they never made would have been about hypochondria. I speak with great authority. Had there been a degree course in the topic when I went to University, many years ago, I should have certainly got a first, and for my piteous groaning, a straight alpha. Compared with many my health would be judged as pretty good but deep inside I know I am on the brink of some obscure ailment. And of course I also regard this as being quite funny too. I may be a hypochondriac but first of all I’m a comedian.

Since early this year I’ve had a wheezy cough and cold which has been disabling . As I’ve piteously groaned in bed taking to heart the medical advice that to recover I must rest and checking my temperature with a thermometer that is clearly under-reading,  I reflect on health.

A new coronavirus has hit Wuhan in China (some 800 km. west of Shanghai). It’s linked to Mers or Sars and there have been an estimated 1700 incidents and a few deaths.  I’m pretty certain this is a mild strain of what I’ve just had. I applaud my own courage and return to reading my latest copy of Undertakers Weekly.

Generally world health is improving dramatically. Recently I read that the average human temperature, which today is 37C, was probably 1.5C higher in 1800. As the planet warms, humans cool. This is probably because our immune systems are less frenetically warding off a host of infectious diseases like tuberculosis, malaria, measles and so on. Additionally our ancestors had inflammation in their bodies producing proteins called cytokines that ramped up the body's metabolic rate, thus generating heat.

Our temperature controlled lives, mostly at around 20c indoors, means we have less need to heat up which is yet another factor.

So Dickens, Keats, Shelley and the rest were “hot” and unwell most of their short lives. Dickens, that inveterate night walker, often covering 20-30 miles in a walk describes illness in a way with which we can identify. The description of Joe the Fat Boy in Pickwick papers has led to medical analysis up to 160 years later into narcolepsy. Being slightly unwell may not be a deterrent to creativity and success.  Byron at 36 found therapeutic bleeding weakened  him when he was ill, persisted and so died. But he got quite a lot done in his short life.

I’m feeling rather better already but I keep on recalling Mr Woodhouse the father of Emma, Jane Austen’s heroine, whom she described as a valetudinarian – the only time I’ve ever seen that word. It means a person who’s unduly anxious about their health.

C’est moi.

We’re  all getting healthier but also getting more anxious. About our weight, about our alcohol consumption, about our state of mind and  about newish causes of death – sepsis now exceeds cancer as a cause of death.  All I can advise is, if in doubt, rest. And stop worrying…….Goodnight. 

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