Do you have moments when the way you see the world changes, if only a small way? I’m not thinking so much about the Road to Damascus kind of moment as much as those times when reality proves that something you always believed was true is, in fact, wrong or at best an oversimplification of the truth. It can quite seriously shake you.
For most of my life I thought I was Mr Immunity. Unlikely to join the Avengers any time soon admittedly, but I had absolutely convinced myself that somehow through an accident of birth or development I was immune to most known child’s diseases. This somewhat low grade superpower meant that I could sit in the middle of a bunch of infected kids and somehow manage not to contract the various dreaded lurgies that seemed to afflict anyone else. Nothing could touch me. Measles, chicken pox, mumps… No problem for Mr. Immunity. True, there was a slight wobble with a very mild case of what I guess I should now call rubella, but that was clearly a special case and quickly dealt with.
Not that I was not ill as a child. Like any good superhero I had my weakness. Until I had various small parts of me surgically removed at the age of 8, I had tonsillitis pretty much constantly (there’s a clue in the condition as to what was removed). Incidentally that was a weird experience to be in a children’s ward in the 1970s; in my head it has a nightmarish quality now, including a hatred of soggy Rice Crispies (about the only thing you could eat post operation for several days) and what I recall as the mysterious disappearance from the ward of the girl in the next bed down out of the mixed ward I was on; although that may have been because she seemed obsessed with lifting up her nightdress to all the boys at every opportunity. Anyway, it all was made better by the blatant bribe from my parents of a Dinky Space: 1999 Eagle which probably is still favourite toy, if a little battered. (sadly, instead of the ships in the actual series the toy version did not have an unlimited supply of spare parts/pilots. Seriously, where were they keeping all those Eagles? The number of times that Eagle One gets totaled…)
Digressing again, back once more to reality shifts.
So, we were having a lovely holiday on the Island of Lundy, and we were just waiting for the boat back to Devon. I felt a bit ill, but put it down to a bit too much sun the day before (no, really, even off the Devon coast) and he fact I had managed to brain myself on a metal stairway while exploring the Island’s old lighthouse. That does not make you feel particularly well. But it was not until the next morning that I found the rash and found, after all, that my super powers had failed me. I had chicken pox. A good friend of ours had had shingles so maybe that was the source or maybe coincidence – in the end it did not matter. I was not immune after all. Immediately my world view had changed just a little bit. The obvious conclusion is that if I could catch this, then what about the others… And almost all common diseases of this sort are worse as an adult. Oh goody. Thankfully for me it was a mild case (the nurse on the end of NHS Direct line seemed actually relieved when my description of symptoms was not half as terrible as she might have been expecting) and even the recurrence – yes, folks, I have shingles at the moment as the damn virus is with you forever, is proving more an irritation (pun intended) than anything else. So maybe I am not after all Mr Immunity, but I’m certainly blessed in this case.
On a serious front it is a reminder, if I needed it, that complacency is one of the biggest things we need to worry about. Just because it has been fine for thirty odd years does not mean it is going to be fine tomorrow, so I’m taking it as a lesson to enjoy when the sun is shining a little but more, as it might not be shining tomorrow.