Diary of a Sinus Infection

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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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Athlone Again, Naturally

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Legend has it that when the White Bull of Connaught was tearing apart the Brown Bull of Cooley, pieces of the bull landed all around the country and placenames were born. So the name Áth Luain, charmingly, refers to the place where the bull’s loins landed. Yes – Athlone is the ‘Place of the Loins’. Sounds vacationable to me!

Athlone is situated more or less in the middle of the island of Ireland – an ancient fording spot on the river Shannon – Ireland’s main inland navigation route. It is, therefore, more known in naval terms moreso than for its loins … (ahem …)

I was back in town on business – as, indeed, I had been many times before. This time, however, I had a little time to kill and promised myself that I’d venture out into the town and see some of it. I had spent the previous night in the tower at the Sheraton – the tallest building in town. Now, in most countries, the view would be impressive. It is possible to see for miles in all directions – lush farmland appearing as a patchwork quilt, tall forests reduced to window-moss. Lough Ree – a large lake by any standards – a distant glimmer on my panorama. The problem is, however, that this is Ireland. A room with a view in the Irish midlands simply means that you know ten minutes beforehand when it’s going to rain. I spent the morning getting some work done as three sets of rain clouds came and went. The view from the tower told me that I had at least ten minutes of dryness. Time for exploring.

Athlone Castle across the main town bridge – itself connecting the provinces of Leinster and Connaught across the mighty Shannon.

A little down the road, I pass St. Mary’s church – a site that had long appeared on my ‘Oh – I must look at that someday’ list. I had always appreciated something of its charm – a late medieval relic in a modern part of town replete with crumbling graveyard and meaningless tower. I take a quick tramp amongst the tombstones to get a sense of the place. Soon, I am standing at the base of the tower. There is a sign on it – presumably erected by the tourist people. Great! Time to find out what famous person was buried here.

Oliver Goldsmith has earned a rightful place in the pantheon of Irish Writers – arguably one of the finest writers not just of the 18th century – but of any. And yes – the sign mentions him … but it is not he who is buried here …

The sign instead references ‘Dean Goldsmith’. Now who is Dean Goldsmith? Dean Goldsmith was a cousin of Oliver’s – or so the sign tells me. Was he also a famous writer, I hear you ask? No. Not to my knowledge. The sign, instead, simply references him as Oliver’s cousin… So Athlone has a sign up to commemorate a man who wasn’t famous in his own right, but who was simply the cousin of someone who was??

Sadly, no. It’s not even that exciting. The full text of the sign reads:

“Inside this tower was interred

30th September 1769,

the wife of Dean Goldsmith, Cousin of

Oliver Goldsmith, poet, Essayist and Playwright.”

I have to read this sign three or four times. Are they really honouring someone who was married to the cousin of someone famous?? Yes, it seems. They are. And what’s worse – the sign doesn’t even mention her name. Words fail me …

I don’t even …

I decide to move on.

In hindsight, I should have expected something like this. The next stop on my grand tour of Athlone is the main town bridge – linking not only two halves of the town across the Shannon – but linking the two provinces of Leinster and Connaught. I had looked up a little information on the bridge before I began my tour and learned that the bridge was designed by Thomas Rhodes, “Cousin of the famous Cecil Rhodes …” What is it with Athlone and fame by proxy?

Across the bridge, I encounter Athlone Castle – a beast of a medieval affair that would look more at home looking down on the beaches of Normandy in the 1940s than gracing the banks of Ireland’s premier waterway. I enter the rather impressively-restored site and begin to look around. It becomes clear that the castle had little to do with the town. It was a garrison fort for most of its existence. Around it, the town went about its own business of pipe making, whiskey distilling and other such local crafts. Indeed, the castle museum is filled with little reminders and artifacts from the everyday life of the townsfolk. In fact, very little at all survives from the authorities that ruled from the castle. The one tangible artifact left over from them is rather gruesome: a man-trap used for catching poachers. Indeed, this being Athlone, I suspect that the trap was also used to catch not only poachers, but their wives and cousins too …

The Athlone Mantrap. It is unclear whether or not the teapot acted as ‘bait’ or was, in fact, simply just a teapot that was also on display.

I figure that I have time for one more site on my day in Athlone. Athlone did actually have an extraordinarily famous son. Count John McCormack, arguably the world’s most famous tenor in the early 20th century, was born in this town. Given the tributes and the lengths that Athlonians go to in order to celebrate those who are vicarious celebrities, I’m expecting great things. I’m expecting at least a twenty foot statue that sings recordings of McCormack’s music on a permanent basis. Or maybe an obelisk pointing to the heavens of which McCormack so famously sang. Who knows? There might even be a throng of American tourists breaking into tears as they visit the birthplace of the man who popularized that most Irish of Irish songs, ‘Danny Boy’.

To say that I am underwhelmed by what I find would be an understatement. I do not find a statue. I do not find a tower. And there are no American tears forming the newest tributary of the mighty Shannon. Instead, I find a Chinese restaurant … and a sign that informs me that John McCormack was born here …

It takes me a while to contemplate this. Why has Athlone chosen to celebrate those who are related – however distantly – to famous people but not put as much thought into remembering those who were, themselves, famous? I guess that in Athlone – it’s not what you know – but who. Dean Goldsmith’s wife clearly knew someone famous. John McCormack clearly didn’t – and that’s what counts around here.

That in mind, I retire for the rest of the evening to Sean’s Bar – hoping that my name will prove enough of an intangible link to result in a free glass of whiskey or two and to allow me space to contemplate my day of loins, of mantraps and of miscommemoration.