Column: September 28, 2011

I DO not know what it is like to be a bear with a sore head, but I know what it is like to be a human with a sore head and I can extrapolate.

I imagine it is much the same, except it would be much more difficult for a bear to open a child-proof bottle of pills or pop a couple out of a blister pack. I do have to say at this point that “blister pack” is the worst name I have seen for something essentially positive since I saw “pitted dried plums” for sale in Costco.

I have suffered from a number of headaches over the past few days. Do not panic, readers, I am coping manfully, by which I mean I am ruthlessly extracting maximum sympathy from onlookers by protesting that I will be fine and sighing while holding the back of my hand to my forehead and getting on with my work.

I have to do this because I also suffer from migraines. People sometimes say that they have a migraine when all they have is a headache because it sounds a bit more middle- class, but a headache to an actual migraine is a scraped knee to a full amputation, or a mild annoyance to a Piers Morgan.

A proper migraine makes everybody – man or woman – take to their beds and pray for sweet oblivion. So if I make a big fuss about a mere headache, it devalues my migraines.

On Sunday, the first of my headaches arrived, and it was an Antony Worrall Thompson on the Piers Morgan Scale, enough for medical intervention. I went to the cupboard, pulled out the paracetamol and took two. It was a pointless exercise on a par with raking the garden while leaves are still falling, coincidentally the exact activity in which I was engaged when the headache struck.

For paracetamol is the worst painkiller in the world. Take two pills and it does nothing. Take fifty-two and it kills you. That has to be the most rubbish of all drugs, a drug which does nothing but harm. If you think I am spouting drivel and paracetamol has given you relief from your own headaches, I would contend that what you have done is taken for a headache the sensation of a butterfly gently stroking its silken wing across your forehead.

Anyway, the paracetamol didn’t shift the headache, so I tried a magic menthol Chapstick-like thing, which one smears over the area affected. It did not remove the headache, but it did overlay it with an entirely unpleasant tingling sensation, and a nagging smell of throat sweets.

The second headache – a Janet Street-Porter – landed on Monday, while I was in work. “Ow,” I moaned.

“What?” asked a colleague.

“Headache,” I said.

“Have you got any paracetamol?” replied the colleague.

“No,” I said, darkly. “Just popping out.”

The pain was getting worse – Janet Street-Porter on Question Time. I went into a shop and picked up a packet of ibuprofen and a bottle of water. I should be able to swallow tablets without water – I swallow bigger items of food without it – but, in my defence, I am pathetic. I rushed to the counter. Janet Street- Porter was being joined by Michael Winner on the This Week sofa.

And then the shop assistant started chatting to me! “They reckon it’s going to be sunny this week. What is it, an Indian summer? Ha ha, I’d have been happy with a normal summer. Oh, it was terrible wasn’t it? Did you go abroad . . . ?”

I couldn’t believe it. I had a packet of ibuprofen and a bottle of water. Did she think I’d bought them on a whim? One day I might have a headache, you never know. I can’t think of a clearer statement of need and intent than standing there with headache pills and the means to take them. The frustration was fuelling the pain. I had reached Stage One Hazel Blears.

The penny obviously dropped. “Oh, have you got a migraine?” she finally said.

“Yes,” I replied. It was easier.

And now I can feel another headache coming on. Hear me roar.

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