Sunday, 27 March 2011


Perhaps foolishly, I pride myself on having a modicum of intelligence. I mean I can do a 'fiendish' Sudoku. I can speak a foreign language. I know which side my bread is buttered.

As a child, I started out well. I passed the '11 plus' exam at the age of 10 thus giving my mother bragging rights in our little corner of the world. "He takes after me you know" was a common phrase as she poured out the tea for our guests.

The truth is that I probably did. She was a clever woman with a lively mind and a quick turn of wit. I enjoyed her praise and loved to impress her. She was very proud of my intellect and was therefore very disappointed when it failed me as was the case one time when I had a very nasty cold and cough.

Our tried and tested remedy for a chesty cold and cough was 'Vicks vapour rub'. It came in a blue jar and had that menthol 'if this doesn't cure you nothing will' sort of smell. Mum taught me to rub it on my chest, especially before bedtime and this would usually mean that I would wake up with my sinuses as clear as a bell.

If my nose was especially bunged up there was another method of application. Mum told me to lightly dip the little finger of my right hand into the jar and then wipe the gel into my right nostril. Then she explained that I must now use the little finger on my left hand to perform the same function for my left nostril.

"Do you know why it is so important to use a different finger for the second nostril?" she asked. Here was my chance to shine, to prove that I was my Mother's son. The chance to show her that all her nurturing efforts had not been in vain. I thought hard and "Eureka" the penny dropped. "So that you don't carry the infection from one nostril to the other" I proudly replied.

She sighed heavily with obvious disappointment. "No, it's so that you don't put your snotty little finger back into the jar which we all use".

That was the day when I learned that common sense beats intelligence every time.

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