Diary of a Sinus Infection


Sinus Infection Log:

Day One: Indian Rope Trick

I awake with a head that I mistake for a thump. My eyes are not happy to be open and are trying to turn each blink into a blonk. Something is very wrong. I initially think that the glass of whiskey or three I had last night has decided to use my head for a cask and is busy charring the oak timbers inside my skull.

I sit up. Bad idea. My head feels as if it has entered a cloud and I quickly have the urge to sneeze. I reach for a tissue. “Ah – pharppghh”. A thick, green rope has appeared on my tissue – but I am not compelled to climb it. My head feels momentarily relieved followed by many more moments of yet worse discomfort. What fresh hell is this?

My head throbs like a rotted and bloating egg. This can only mean one thing. Sinus Infection. Feck it anyway.


Sinus Infection Log:

Day Two: Sawbones

I sit in the waiting room at the doctor. A tired, mono-speakered radio is playing either the call to prayer or the one O’clock News – the sound is too thin to distinguish. I stare at a poster advertising family planning advice and can’t help thinking back to 5am when my three year old decided to wake the house up with wordless song and arrhythmic banging. Children, indeed, are not for the sinused amongst us.

“Mr Carabini?” calls the doctor. Both my sinuses and I enter the room.

“What seems to be the problem?”

I believe that I may have opened with a “Life was so much easier before I had sinuses”. She understands and begins to prod me in different parts of my face – which presumably has something to do with her being a doctor.

A sinus infection is confirmed and a course of anti-biotics are prescribed. “Are you allergic to any medications?”

“Yes – Clarithromycin.”

“Oh – really? Why? What happens to you on them?”

I get a flashback to four years ago when I had taken just the first in a course for a gastric illness and, like an obese Olympic skier, it went very quickly downhill from there.

“After half an hour, my stomach was very ill. After an hour, I was shivering. After two, my skin could hear colours.”

The doctor simply nods and changes the subject. “Right – so Penicillin – one tablet three times a day.”


Sinus Infection Log:

Day Three: Sleeping like a Spiderman

I am ill. My sinuses continue to pulse like a dim bamboo-filament lightbulb. My body, thus far fine from the nose down, has capitulated to the onslaught of the pill. I am a crumbled, shuddering mess. All I want to do is sleep and set free my inner narcoleptic. I pull the blinds. I turn off the lights. I curl up beneath the duvet and lie there, a full two stages below useless and one below burdensome.

I decide to check my email – but sit up too quickly. My body freezes, inhales, and detonates a napalm of sneezing. My hand quickly comes up to my mouth. Barrage after barrage ensues, leaving me light headed and exhausted. I remove my hand from my mouth and glimpse at its green and webbed contents contents. It dawns on me that Stan Lee must have had a sinus infection too when he created Spiderman …


Sinus Infection Log:

Day Five: Lets Google It …

Today I am contemplating the need for the sinus and contemplating simply having mine backfilled. Webmd.com tells me, unhelpfully, that “The purpose of the sinus is unclear”. The human body has a few evolutionary oddities that can be roughly classed. The first class is the “Huh – fancy that!” class, that includes the tail-bone and the male nipple. They don’t do anything good or bad, They just, simply, ‘are’. Then there is the other class – a whole class of useless anatomical features that do nothing except make you miserable. Internal terrorists. Some, like the appendix, lie dormant for a whole lifetime before trying to kill you out of sheer boredom. It is to this class of ‘jerk’ organs that the sinus belongs.

Indeed, its purpose appears to be to prevent deep sea diving and getting sinus infections. Nice designing you did there, god.

I lie here, useless and in pain. If I was a jelly, at least I would be able to wobble.


Sinus Infection Log:

Day Seven: Banditry

I have watched all I’ve wanted to watch on the TV. I’ve listened to every podcast I’ve wanted to hear. I cannot read too much as everytime my eyes swivel, they squeeze my sinuses like a jellyfish. I am tired. I am sore. I am ill. And I am now officially bored.

I turn my mind to the history of the sinus. I read that Sinus actually appeared in ancient Greek mythology. He was a bandit and, if myth is to be believed, a bit of a shit. He would apparently stop travellers and ask them to help him bend down mighty trees. When they helped him, and the trees were bent over, he would let go and the victims would be hurtled off into the distance like a cartoon coyote, leaving Sinus behind to plunder whatever they had left behind.

This story at least gives me something to think about – what was it trying to tell me about the sinus? Is there a clandestine message – a secret piece of ancient Greek wisdom about the purpose and function of the sinus here hidden? Is there maybe a morale here that will help me better communicate with my sinus and prevent this from happening again? Is my sinus a lonely outcast that feels it has no choice but to turn to anatomical banditry?

Apparently, not. It is not unloved. It is mis-spelled. The bandit, it turns out is Sinis, not Sinus. I had hit the wrong key …


Sinus Infection Log:

Day Eight: A New Beginning

It is Easter Sunday. I awake – throbless. Cautiously, I stand up. I am a little tired – but I feel strangely unfugheadded.

I pull up the blinds and peer out at a beautiful, crisp, Easter morning. I resurrect my way to the kitchen. So far, so good. I pull on my shoes – now cobwebbed and dusty from a week of non-use. I make my way to the Hill of Tara to allow my nostrils to fill with the fresh air of an Irish spring …

Maybe I’ll be fine after all … if I just take it …one bright and sunny day … at a time …

Hill of Tara on Easter Sunday

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St. Catherine and the Worm: A Family Odyssey


St. Catherine’s Park between Lucan and Leixlip is the type of calm, beautiful suburban oasis that turns peaceful Sunday outings into family legends. It was here three years ago, for example, that I did serious damage to my shoulder when giving my wife a jockey-back up a steep hill. I can still remember the follow-up question the radiographer in the hospital asked when I told him about the fall. “Jockey back? Oh – do you do those wife-carrying competitions?” Alas, I did not. “But why were you carrying her?” he enquired. Embarrassingly, the best – and only – answer I had was “Because it was Sunday”. I have learned my lesson, though. Since then, I have made it a rule not to carry any women uphill.

I still visit St. Catherine’s regularly, however, and so, on a typical April morning, I set out – just myself and the childer – to spend the afternoon in the park. I had read a bit about the park’s history online – about how it had been intact since the Norman Invasion in 1172, about how the area was run by a religious institution – the rather pompous sounding Priory of Canons of the Order of Saint Victor. Indeed, the extensive ruins of the Priory are still very much visible in the park today. I had also read that somewhere around here was the old St. Catherine’s Well, the correct response to which is, I believe, “Is she now?”

I park the car and we walk along the ancient roadway alongside the ruins of the priory. Not far from the carpark, we see a little stream and, a few feet further on, we find the ruins of the still-functioning St. Catherine’s Well. My son and daughter instantly descend the steps into the shallow trickle and begin to splash around in it.


St. Catherine’s Well – apparently renowned for curing sore eyes (or possibly psoriasis – I may have misheard).

After a few minutes, the children begin to climb the ridiculously steep and weed-wrought hill that that extends up from the well.

“Ouch! Daddy! Nettles!”, screams my daughter, followed immediately by “Daddy! stingers! Owwww!” and even an incidence of “Thorns! Everywhere!”. By the time I get to her, she has legs like a lattice-topped strawberry pie.

My three-year-old son is also suffering from the flora, but, in fairness, he seems to have brought it on himself. I spy him lowering his hand into some nettles. “Noooo”!, I roar. But it does not deter him. “Look Daddy – I picked a Dandelion”, he says, having spotted it beneath the nettles. This is soon followed with a “Daddy – my hand hurts”.

“Well that’s because you put your hand into nettles.”


“Will you do that again?”

“No,” he states, solemn as a stoic philosopher.

No sooner have I turned my back when I hear “Look Daddy – another Dandelion!” followed by another plunging of tiny hands into more nettles.

While this is going on, my daughter spies a worm lying atop the mud. She picks him up and proudly brings him over for us all to see. And, in fairness, he is quite impressive with his sausage-ine physique. If served him with a rasher of bacon and some beans, you’d probably not send him back.

“Oh – look at my worm friend. I think he needs a new house. I don’t think he likes it up here,” says my daughter, wrapping him in a dock leaf.

“Ok. Where will be put him?”

“I think we should put him near the Well.”

And, with that, we descend the weed-strewn hill, picking up yet more red marks and participating in more screaming.

My daughter finds a quaint little patch of what look like Primrose leaves beside the Well. She places her worm friend beside them and covers him with a leaf.

“Look Dad – he likes it! Do you think he’s going to love his new home? I’m going to get him some more leaves.”

As she walks away, my son approaches. “Worm”, he says, as he picks it up and pulls it in two with the ease of wet tissue paper.

Oh feck. What do I do now? She’ll be distraught!

She arrives back. She looks down at the scene.

Oh feck …

“Dad! Look,” she says, holding two gruesome halves of the mascherated worm aloft – entrails trailing from one side. “He’s found a friend! They’re going to be so happy together,” she says – his digestive tract bouncing and bobbing as each half of him dangles from her fingers. Not wanting her to discover the barbarity, I try to move her on.

“That’s great – hey – lets go up here – you should leave the two worm friends in peace in their new home” I say, moving on up the road. She follows.

As she reaches me, she stops dead. There has been a flash of inspiration.

“Hey!”, she says to my son. “Was that really two worms or did you just pull him apart?”

My son cannot tell a lie.

“I separated him,” he states with the coldness of a serial killer.

There are tears from her, there is frustration from me and there is a worrying lack of remorse from my son.

I have no doubt that this place was a venerated well long before the Normans arrived and was most likely in pre-Christian times an area of pagan worship. And now, in the 21st century, it appears that a Carabini has reinstated a practice of sacrifice here. St. Catherine’s Well. But that’s more than I can say for the worm.


The ruins of the Priory of Canons of the Order of Saint Victor. Useless fact of the day: St. Victor, one of the few African popes, is venerated on my birthday. Co-incidence? Yes. Absolutely.


Hemorrhoids, Seamus Heaney and Generic Writing


So you’ve got a problem. You’re irritable. You’re sitting on a rubber ring. And your body has decided to turn your posterior into a vineyard of sorts. Yes, you are suffering from the scourge of the 21st century: hemorrhoids.

But how do you treat them? You have a number of options. Many will, of course, reach for “Preparation H” – imbued, is its name suggests, with the careful consideration of a skilled chemist, preparing his preparations. Or, indeed, you may simply not care about the chemist and want something that promises exactly what you want. In this case, the brand “Hemorrhoidal Ointment” will be your choice – a brand that dispenses with the frills and gets you to your destination like a Ryanair plane. But what if you don’t have the patience to let an ointment do its thing? What if you need relief now. What if today is the day the grapes have ripened and become wrathful? Well then – you need “Hemorid” – a brand name that, it seems, will ‘rid’ you of your problem.

The thing is – all of these products contain the same medication – phenylephrine – yet the three of them try to tell different stories to appeal to different people.

Sometimes people will get used to a brand name for a drug and, when a cheaper, generic version comes on the market, they may not buy it – even though it does exactly the same thing. In many cases, the only difference is the colour of the box.

Have you ever heard of sildenafil? It is the actual name of the active medicine in Viagra. Clearly, the marketing people over at Pfizer came up with a brand name to tell a story by mashing words like Vitality, Angry, Virile … and so on. The other drug that uses sildenafil as its active ingredient is Revatio – which, despite doing the same thing, is trying to appeal to those who have more of a paternal relationship with, well, themselves.

And so it dawned on me: is there a space for this generic alternative within the world of writing?

The idea is simple – take a known piece of writing that conveys something definite – and then try to use vaguely similar words and concepts to change the story a little – but still sell the basic underlying ‘active’.

For no other reason than I happen to like the poem, I have decided to look at Seamus Heaney’s ‘Digging’ to see if there is a generic alternative that one could use to deliver the same message – without, of course, the essence of Heaney himself.

For the uninitiated, here is the first few lines of the Heaney Poem:


Between my finger and my thumb

The squat pin rest; snug as a gun.

Under my window, a clean rasping sound

When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:water

My father, digging.

What is the essence of this poem? To me, the message is about someone pondering their place in the world – recognising that there is a talent or an interest that is perhaps not in keeping with what tradition might have expected – but one that the writer clearly wants to identify with. When trying to think of a vehicle for this – I thought about ‘vehicles’ themselves. There is nothing more masculine than washing a car – and so – that will be the theme for my generic Heaney poem.

Heaney uses ‘digging’ as a device of both tradition and masculinity. Thus, we need to find the same.

We will also need to find a title. Some recommend, when naming a generic drug, that virile letters such as ‘B’, ‘X’ or ‘Z’ are used. It is also a good idea to find a word associated with the message – perhaps a Latin word that already suggests what we are looking for.

The Latin for ‘washing’ is ‘ablutio’ – a robust-sounding word that we can almost certainly incorporate into our title. The Roman’s weren’t too big on cars – but they did have chariots. Currus is a triumphal chariot – which is particularly apt given that triumphs were all about symbols of masculinity – including – literally – large fake penises on display beneath the chariot. Seems pretty apt for what we want.

My generic poem is a far cry from something Heaney would have penned. The final piece is to come up with a pen name for the type of person who might have written such a poem. There are a lot of ‘name generators’ going around – find out your ‘superhero’ name, or your ‘vampire’ name, etc. I tried to come up with something similar and, after a few false starts (name of your first pet + favourite soup ended up being Friskey Tomato, for example), I’ve decided on the perfect author name generator: First name of the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature for your birthyear + the first word in your favourite dessert.

And so – I reveal to you my first attempt at Generic Writing:


by Isaac Sweetpotato

…And there on my lap

My tablet – resting – cast as a resting rifle.

Outside my window, a swashy bubbling

As the sponge sinks slowly into the soapy water:

My father – washing the car.