This is going to be a short one. I’ve only experienced one plague in my life. I’ve mentioned it before in one of the previous posts. The plague was a locust plague. And it was in Dubbo. It was 2004 and it was my second circuit work trip. Basically locusts were everywhere. In your hair, in your face, in the court room, in your bedroom, in your car. I would walk from the motel to work and would have to wag a stick in front of my face so that I wouldn’t be bombarded my the horrid flying creatures. They were splattered all over the place and oozed a yellow liquid when squashed. It was impossible to go for a jog because when running even at a minimal speed, it was impossible for your face or your bare legs to avoid locust collision. And once there was impact there was pain. The flying monsters caused you actual pain. The local tennis court would use its extra large rain gathering squeegee to remove all the locusts from the green. The Dubbo drivers learned quickly to wrap their front car grilles with fly screens to stop the locusts from entering the engines and radiators. Once the flying bugs were inside the grille, they quickly got fried and then they would leave a putrid smell throughout the whole car interior that apparently would whiff around for weeks. It was a character building experience because I really REALLY hate bugs and I didn’t leave early.
Do you remember last round of Far Flung Four, when we had the topic Avian? I had an unpublished article on pandemic preparedness subculture which I was able to post. I still think that’s a fascinating topic, but sadly this year I don’t have any rejected articles handy on this similar theme, Plague. It was kind of funny/sad that the owner of the main web forum on the topic discovered my post, and interpreted my comments as meaning I thought they were all paranoid nutters. I wish I thought they were all paranoid nutters. The truth is, I totally buy into the whole paranoia/preparedness/bunker-building mentality. If I didn’t have a “sane” partner, I would totally have a bunker in my backyard.
I love survivalism too – totally dug The Road, by Cormac McCarthy and sort of yearn for a world where McGuyver skills and arcane bush tucker knowledge (neither of which I possess) could come to the fore. Hmm, perhaps this ties in with the heroism issues I blogged about earlier? God, I also posted an apocalyptic poem by Yeats and a revelation-style musing of my own. This blog is painting an interesting picture of my character. Why is no one else coming off as unhinged here? Don’t answer that.
Anyhow, Hollywood’s perseveration on these themes assures me I am not alone in their enjoyment. I was discussing with a friend recently the frisson we all experience when a major world event takes place – the idea that everything could change inspires an undiscriminating and usually foolhardy excitement. Apocalypse ASAP.
Knowing I “take a keen interest”, Richard emailed me a link to this article reporting a new crop of cases of avian flu in Hong Kong. This is the choice paragraph:
“It is unfortunate that an avian influenza case is detected before the Winter Solstice, necessitating a halt to the supply of live chickens,” Chow said.
The thing about avian flu is that once infected, you’re more likely to die than not. With something like swine flu, your odds are much better, but on the other hand, avian flu doesn’t spread easily from human to human like swine flu. Some think it’s only a matter of time before we get a double whammy.
Whenever there’s a “scare” in the media of some kind, it’s not just the paranoids like me that get excited. There’s also another group I find interesting psychologically. Let’s call them the stoic stalwarts. These people have been excitedly waiting for a different opportunity – not to trek into the hills to live in a cave, but to Not Have Been Wrong. Students of historical events where people were Wrong and “panicked for nothing”, the stoic stalwarts are determined to show how clever and calm they can be, listing all the instances in the past (Y2K! Swine Flu! SARS… oh wait, lots of people died in that one) where a potential problem was thwarted by human organisation or proved not to be a concern. These people will leap on such illustrious platforms as the SMH comments (shudder) at the first opportunity, determined to have it on record that they did not panic.
Of course, when it comes to the modern day plague, there is a middle ground available to all you reasonable readers. Relax, and check your vitamin D (43 per cent of young Australian women are deficient).
PS Just saw this article after posting!
I have spent the last couple of nights at my sister’s farm in Poowong. To a visitor it’s an idyllic, verdant property right out of Country Living with a cottage garden and various amusing animals such as an enormous showy turkey, who, if you gobble at him will gobble right back.
But like all farms, you don’t have to scratch the surface too deeply to find that it’s not all fluffy sheep gamboling in the rolling hills. In fact, it can be quite grim.
One of my sister’s recent trials has been quite Old Testament awful: crows have been spearing her chickens in the neck and ripping their throats out. This is probably why they call them “a murder of crows”.
The turkeys have all had some disease called black head they’ve bizarrely caught from earth worms, there’s a cow with mastitis, some thrushes that keep throwing themselves out of their nest, and a dog that can’t resist eating the ducks.
Apparently there’s a country saying “livestock means dead stock”, which you employ when some ill fate has befallen one of your creatures, which it will, regularly.
I like scratching the pigs behind the ears, picking the raspberries, and cuddling the lambikins, but I think my Little Golden Book idea of the country is clear evidence that I’m from the city.
I was confidently explaining to Jeff how the nursery rhyme ‘Ring a Ring o’ Roses’ was about the Plague the other day. “One of the symptoms of the Plague was red rings on your limbs”, I explained patiently. “People carried herbs around in their pockets for protection, sneezing was a sign you were about to cark it, and then everyone died.” Well, bollocks Beth. Not true. Turns out that interpretation only cropped up after the second world war and the rhyme dates back to the 1790s. The Great Plague happened in 1665.
This discovery led me to look into a few other nursery rhyme interpretations. Kind of interesting. Mostly not. Except that ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ was biographical. “As a girl, Mary Sawyer (later Mrs. Mary Tyler) kept a pet lamb, which she took to school one day at the suggestion of her brother.” That’s the coolest.
The only vaguely plague-like illness in Sydney these days is Hand Foot and Mouth Disease (aka as the decidedly rude coxsackievirus). High temp; ulcers in the mouth; rashes on feet, hands and nappy regions. Went around our mother’s group recently. I don’t remember this virus from my childhood at all. Do you guys? It is really contagious and not to be confused with Foot and Mouth Disease which is sometimes fatal for cloven-hooved animals. Poor cloven-hooved dudes.