Wednesday, 5 December 2012

The Beautiful Virus
Inner Space

I’m just getting over a rotten cold. It hasn’t been nice, but, as a Brit, I feel I’ve done my bit. Colds are one of the glories of our culture, along with Shakespeare and Blake, and you’re expected to participate. Immigrants from warmer countries should be offered classes in the social significance of being a bit congested.

In fact, we should all do them, Brits and non-Brits. It’s a matter of sharing our National Heritage.  Here are just a few of the deep-rooted Folk Customs of the Sniffling Season.

The Ceremony of the Spreading of the Germs.  This is held where large numbers of people are crushed together, mainly on commuter trains and the tube. The ceremony begins with a few people tentatively sniffing into their Kleenexes. Someone (maybe in olden times they would have worn stag’s horns), sneezes out loud. There is a ritual Giving the Disapproving Glare and Holding up the Newspaper. Then someone responds to the sneeze. By the time the train pulls in, nearly everyone will be joining in a Mass Snort. The effect is overpoweringly emotional.

The Respectful Concert Cough  When an orchestra plays, in between movements it’s customary to encourage the players with a low cough which goes round the Hall. When this fails to happen, conductors turn round and glare at the audience until someone starts to splutter.

The Water Cooler Moan Game  This involves delicate conversational skills which can take years to master. The opening gambit goes something like “I’ve got a real shocker. Had it for two weeks.”  The response is “It’s going round.” People with real finesse might come out with something like “Honey and lemon’s best”. Intimidated pre-initiates should not hover round the margins. By getting in close they’ll catch the cold and tomorrow have a bash at the opening gambit.

We should celebrate Cold Culture with an International Mucus Day. Your suggestions are welcome. For example, at midday everyone could participate in a Two Minute Sneeze (sponsored by the hanky industry). We could market it with the slogan “It’s like Red Nose Day, except you don’t need to buy the nose”.

When to have it? In the classic period for British colds, of course – the summer. 


  1. Very entertaining.
    BTW, when you say "a bit congested" you did not actually mean "a bit dense":-)
    And, after the world uncle's day, national red caterpillar day, global no blue trousers day, etc. it seems three days on the calendar are still available for more "eventful" events like the "mucus day" you so thoughtfully propose. Grab them while stocks last.

  2. Thanks for the amusing suggestions, Ankur. Join me in the "Make every day a Global Day" movement.

  3. Have you noticed the Chinese always go about with a mask?
    I think colds and congestion are all natural, so we should wait it out and bear with it until it's gone.
    My sneezing record is six sneezes in a row - happened naturally, without forcing them out. Maybe we could institute a sneezing competition...