COLUMN: April 26, 2012

I HAD an accident while gardening at the weekend. It was only fair. I was inflicting a certain degree of damage upon it, so who could blame the garden for hitting back?

My wife had suggested it was about time I cut the bushes back. I tried to explain that we meddle with nature at our peril, and, besides, The Planet’s Funniest Animals was on, but she felt my thesis lacked a certain something and won the philosophical argument.

And so I found myself attacking a holly bush with shears, protected only by gloves made of cloth and my gardening glasses. They are my old glasses, but I read once about somebody being blinded by a stone thrown up by a lawnmower, and I don’t want to get my normal glasses broken.

In any case, I do not know how much you know about gardening, but holly is bloody sharp. I stared at the gloves and wondered why military manufacturers do not use cloth in armour, seeing as it’s so obviously effective against mildly spiky foliage.

I took my glove off and sucked my finger. It tasted horrid, like gardening gloves. Angered, I launched another assault on the bush. I was Conan the Horticulturalist.

And that’s when the bush decided to take a small nip out of my nose. “Ooyah! That really was a sub-optimal experience,” I said, or words to that effect. It left a little cut above my left nostril.

A little, itchy cut, which I couldn’t stop scratching, making it worse, as scratching always does. I sometimes think that scratch mittens should be made available to adults.

I passed a mirror and quailed. I had disfigured myself, even taking into account my low base position. I had a big shiny red sore on my nose, suitable for guiding reindeer through the fog, able to stop traffic if I stood on a street corner.

Worse than all this, it looked from a short distance as if I had a boil. I am not entirely sure that a sore is much better, but boils are definitely worse than anything else. I could have got away with it if I drove to work. Nobody in work ever looks at me directly, and it is a well-known fact that people playing with their noses in cars are invisible.

But I get the bus to work, like an eccentric millionaire, and tend to sit on the back seat. This is because as a child I was not allowed to sit on the back seat of a single-decker. I would make for it every time, but be told to sit somewhere else.

Now I am an adult. And I can sit wherever I like on the bus, apart from on the driver’s knee.
It meant I was able to observe the other passengers as they got on the bus. And, to a passenger, they reacted the same way. They looked up the bus, presumably searching for a seat, saw me among the throng, and suddenly clocked my big, red, to all intents and purposes, boil.

Their eyes widened. Then they would look away. A young woman sitting opposite, kept looking at me, and then averting her glances. I suddenly understood what it must be like to be famous. Or the Elephant Man. In fairness, he too was famous. He was even in a film.

Next morning, I decided to take action. I could not bring myself to use concealer – I am a man, with a man’s shoes – but I did try something else. I sprinkled some of my wife’s talcum powder onto my finger and dabbed it on the sore, reducing the redness markedly, and making everywhere smell of lavender and flowers as an added bonus.

I sailed through my bus journey, unnoticed, as I like it. Perhaps the passengers wondered why they could smell ylang ylang, but we will never know.

And I sat at my desk, confident, a man with a normal nose. A colleague behind called me. I whirled around on my chair, dynamically.

“Ew, Gary!” she shrieked, as soon as she saw me. “Have you got a boil on your nose?!”

And that, reader, is why you don’t meddle with nature.

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