How do you like to spend your weekends, dear readers? Personally speaking, I like nothing better than to writhe about on the floor, weak as a kitten, in a pool of my own effluent. But I’m getting ahead of myself here.
Let’s rewind back to last Friday to get things in their proper perspective. Now after work I find myself in the company of Williams Nerd the Elder and our banter comes around to the question of memory, and more pacifically, the lessening of it as one is dragged screaming towards dotage.
What better way, then, to see if us Old Uns still have it than by challenging each other to a staggering feat of memory the like of which would make proud the Homeric bards of the Pelopennessus or the brothers of the cold North chanting Kalevala against the long dark watch of the night. Thus it was that, both being fans of Roman history, we did challenge ourselves to commit to what little memory remains to us, the names and dates of the reigns of the first sixteen Emperors, and yes, you are right, there is far too much ‘of‘ in this sentence.
Nerva the Nose - Forgotten Roman Emperors No.32
Later that night I was to be found in the galley, chef’s hat upon my pate at a jaunty angle, mug of Mount Gay rum in one hand and a huge meat cleaver in the other, preparing the evening repast whilst trying to grapple with Galba, negotiate with Nerva, calculating my Caligula and marking down my Marcus Aurelius. Ae you serious? Tiberius?
Now all of these mental exercises got me a tad distracted, and it was at this juncture that two small items in your Humble Narrator‘s regimen were neglected, with, as it turned out, disastrous consequences. Pay attention, dear readers, and learn from this sad tale of culinary mishap, gastric mayhem and bacterial proliferation. For having chopped my chicken, I failed to wash my cleaver and turn my board before preparing my lettuce and tomatoes, and thusly are we come to a salad replete with fine specks of raw pullet.
Now, as you should know, uncooked chicken and the human intestine do not a happy couple make. When wed, they have a tendency to bring a pair of unwanted guests along on the honeymoon. The first of these made his appearance felt around 3am, when a speedy liquid release was required from the lower portals, if you get my drift. Bright and early next morning came Lady Projectile Vomit and her cheery attendants, insufferable stomach cramps and all-pervasive debilitating weakness. Huzzah!
Now, as I ran to the khazi crying tears of pain and wondering which end to put over the toilet bowl, I did at first think I had contracted the dreaded influenza, which would have been mightily ironic, since just the night before I had been waxing lyrical on the subject of the all-conquering Tamiflu jab I’d had to ward off the dread malady. But no, later eye-witness testimony to my kitchen gaffes and the relative short duration of the unpleasantness (3 days) confirm it as nothing less than a dose of the old salmonella.
Some salmonella, yesterday
Well, that put paid to the three day weekend, and also any attempts to begin learning the Romans. In fact, I completely forgot about it until mid-week. Now your Williams Nerd had been citing various fancy-schmancy methods for memorising things, but you know what? I had the names all down in an hour and could slot the dates in about twenty minutes later, et voila (or whatever that would be in Latin).
Now the modern trend in education no doubt eschews the learning by rote of lists of things, and I too was of the same opinion, but suddenly having this chronological framework internalised allows me to make sense of the whole period. Think of it this way: imagine you’re in Tokyo and you only ever use the subway. You become familiar with some of the locales where you emerge, but you can never get an appreciation of the layout of the whole city without actually walking it on the surface. See?
So there we are. Now go out and learn pi to twenty decimal places, but don’t let it distract you from the harsh microbiological realities of the kitchen.