Wishing you a tip-top 2017

So, here we are again. It seems like only a couple of months ago that we were wishing each other well for 2016. Did your year turn out well? I hope so. Mine was steady until roughly the middle of August, and then events overtook me. Regular readers might have been wondering about my four-month silence here. It was not entirely my choice.

The year should have been exceptional, and much of it was: silver-wedding anniversary; six weeks off to celebrate by going for an extended trip Down Under to visit friends and renew my acquaintance with New Zealand, truly one of the most spectacular and friendly countries on the planet.

Alas, I landed in hospital in Australia, more of which another time. If you have to find yourself in an emergency-isolation ward, I can recommend the Australian health service; not just for the standard of care and the impeccable courtesy of every staff member, from consultant to cleaner, but because the entire mischanter cost me not a penny thanks to the UK-Australia reciprocal-care agreement. I hope we treat Aussies as well as they treated me.

It was only a severe bout of flu. I say “only”, but Australia takes viral infections seriously, especially if it thinks they might have been imported from stopovers in Asia, including our four days in Singapore, hence the immediate isolation.

I said to the staff nurse shortly before I left the hospital for the last time: “I feel a bit of a fraud taking up so much of your time and resources for something as mundane as flu.”

“You think so?” she said.  “We’ve had 211 people die from this strain in this city alone in the last 12 months.” I thanked her for not dropping that bomblet as I was being admitted, and saving it until I was leaving.

It took fully two months to get rid of all the symptoms so, thank you, the unnamed businessman one row behind me on the flight from Sydney to Tasmania. You turned out to be the chief suspect for infecting me. You spent the entire two hours barking, spluttering, sneezing and coughing, and all without the aid of a hankie. Your ignorance of personal hygiene took the shine off our silver-wedding tour.

My next burden was a pleading call from a publisher on my return: a desperate rush job in book editing. There seems to be an impression in UK publishing that if you have worked in newspapers you lap up deadlines that defeat everyone else. It’s true that a lifetime of daily deadlines makes it only more of the usual for me, but other things still have to fall off the to-do list. The job finally got wrapped up with two days to spare in the week before Christmas.

Finally, a dear uncle who had been struggling with a brain tumour for most of the year passed away, age 82. I will be eulogising in the new year.

All of which is a long explanation to apologise for a fallow four months here and to confirm that I am back in the saddle and looking forward to regular dispatches once again.

I hope you’ll join in. We’ll have some fun.


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  1. John Meldrum says:

    To quote the legendary Gene Autry it’s nice to see you, “Back in the Saddle Again” – Whoopi-ty-aye-yay !

  2. Alisoun Nicol says:

    I agree: Welcome back, Norman! You have been missed!

  3. Avril Spence says:

    Welcome back Norman.

    I wish you and Mrs Harper a belated Happy Anniversary and hope that the rest of your trip went well. Flu is no fun and I have had “real” flu once.

  4. Norman says:

    Thank you, all, for your kind wishes.
    Yes, there’s “flu” and there’s FLU. You soon understand the difference when the real one hits.
    Mine overtook me in the space of two minutes in the middle of a department store. I had been feeling poorly, but coping, for a couple of days before, but then it was as if someone had flicked a switch and all the power drained away in seconds.
    The taxi driver to the hospital was so worried he refused to take the fare.
    Anyway, as we say in the North-east, I’m roadit again, and with a new empathy for sufferers from FLU.

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