Tuesday 21 July

For some years now we have been warned of the imminence of a worldwide attack of Wine Flu – a robust kind of a virus that threatens to floor around 40% of the planet’s pop. Well finally it has hit us where it hurts – in the loved ones. Readers will know there are few things Licky likes more than a drop of cab sauv or pin noir and it seems despite regular use of the alcoholic hand rub at work (which when combined with extra strong perfume/aftershave offers decent cover should you have over-indulged the night before) the beastly germs have at last found a way through her defences.

A pigeon flutters in through the skylight, then plunges like a stone onto the sofa, folds her wings and demands a cup of tea before parting with her news. Yes, dear readers, her – the very strain apparent in the very italics – the agency having insisted that I take on my first ever female carrier, Bacha. I finish off my sausages and absinthe (all that’s left safe to consume these days?) with feigned casuality but eventually can wait no longer, “How is she?” The good news: Licky is recovering, bedbound yet in high spirits, though I cannot visit. The bad news: her doctor ex can, being a doctor and all that; but being a man, undoubtedly wanting Miss Shazhorn’s return to his life by way of a tip. It is with mixed emotions that I retire restlessly:

Will the distinctions between the sexes, that birds like Bacha have pecked apart, re-form like so much cheap meat in the wake of this outbreak? Is it not to be expected that the weaker sex should look to the more robust components of the stronger at times like this? What good a part-time pamphleteer to a maiden amongst all this? The latest bulletins via the worldwidewotsit do little to settle the mind. Apparently a second wave of flu will snaffle us over winter so perhaps it’s best to glug it down first time round. Colloquially, in any case, it seems that infected friends and friends-of-friends are collectively riding things out – something I seek to confirm with Bacha once she gets down from that sanctimonious perch in the rafters she insisted on building herself.

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