This summer, for the first time in my life, I have had hay fever. Suffered from it, indeed. In true man fashion, I have soldiered on, feebly brushing away the antihistamines, before falling back into the cushions and covering my face with linen handkerchiefs.
If I were not so stoical, I would say I have been a martyr to it.
I have never been afflicted in this manner before now, and it seems damned unfair to get it now, in my 65th year of otherwise happy flower sniffing. (If you are one of my closer friends, who might know that I am 64, don’t write to complain about my being in my 65th year. As they say in the films, you do the math.)
I was a hippy. I had flowers in my hair, for heaven’s sake. I was a gardener. I stuck my nose into everything.
And yet now, in my dotage, I am struck down. Where is the justice in that, O Lord?
Like all people who are not hay feverish, I had no idea. I thought it might last a couple of days, while they cut the hay round about. Nobody needs this much hay. And nobody needs to cut it all through the night or in the rain.
What evolutionary purpose could it possible serve?
Every night since June, I have woken to a stream of most of my body fluids running down my nose. Every evening I stick my fingers into the corners of my eyes, to ease the itching and burning.
I blush with guilt when I think of my heartless attitude to other sufferers, in those happy days when the smell of new-mown grass was a joy, and when passing a honeysuckle in the hedge was a delight.
Now I am made to pay for my sin of hard-heartedness. The beauty of the summer has been taken away and thrown into the infinite handkerchief.
There are no self-help groups for people like us, no “twelve step program”. No exemption from military service, no special seating on aircraft.
We are just left to muddle through.
And, of course, we do. But I have never looked forward to winter as much as I do this year.