A Tale of Two
I suppose it was bound to happen. After the stress and strain of preparing, travelling and giving those six lectures and a sermon in Romania and then two more ninety-minute lectures in Manchester last week, plus a wife with a foul cold, I too have succumbed this week.
The pattern is all too familiar. First, there is that vague sore throat, then the muzzy head and next the genuine headache, then the blocked nose followed by the runny nose, then the hacking cough, then the itchy rash across the chest, then the frustration of being too weak and tired to accomplish anything significant and – or, at least, so I’m told – the onset of some slight irritability. Now I’m well into my second boxes of man-size Kleenex tissues and of Extra Strength Blackcurrant Strepsils. The sinusitis and the bleeding nose are awaited. Horrid virus!
A long time ago, I had set aside these two weeks to finish the second edition of my book, Responding to the Culture of Death. Now that well-laid plan has gone out of the window. I can hardly raise enough enthusiasm to watch daytime TV – mind you, who can? Have you actually tried to sit and watch a whole episode of 16 and Pregnant or The Jeremy Kyle Show?
On Wednesday I struggled to start to try a little editorial work – I wish I hadn’t. During an idle moment I thought I would Google ‘cold remedies’ – oh, I wish I hadn’t. Suddenly the screen jammed. My internet anti-virus programme flashed and warned that a nasty bug, called a ‘system progressive firewall virus’, had successfully attacked my computer. No problem, I thought. I went through the motions of disinfecting, something I’ve done many times before. But hold on, that didn’t work. The blue icon of Sophos, my industrial-strength endpoint computer protection system, had turned red and had itself become inoperable, wiped out. Another horrid, horrid virus.
What to do? I phoned my never-failing chums at the computer helpdesk in the University. ‘Try this, try that, what about this, not even that?’ Nothing was helping. Meanwhile, various messages were appearing on the screen, such as, ‘The virus is trying to access your credit card details.’ ‘That’s enough’, we agreed. ‘Let me book it into the computer workshop.’ We did that and soon I got an e-mail with a job reference number. Within an hour another e-mail asked me to bring the PC to the workshop. Within 20 minutes, sick 'I' and sick ‘it’ were there.
The technician assigned to my problem filled in some paper work, which I countersigned. As we were about to part, I casually asked when I could expect to collect it, ‘This afternoon, tomorrow?’ ‘No, I’ll e-mail you next week.’ ‘Next week! But I’ve got a book on this box that I need to finish by the end of this month.’ ‘OK, I’ll try and call you Monday afternoon.’ I thought of that wise adage – an hour’s work takes a day, a day’s work takes a week, a week’s work takes a month, and so on. How true! I thought it applied only to builders, but computer technicians apparently now own it too.
Horrid, horrid, horrid viruses. Can they really be in the Providence of God? I thought of that famous theological question, what is the point of wasps? What is the point of wasps and viruses? If God is sovereign, then wasps and viruses must have a purpose. At least for me this week, two types of viruses have certainly exerted the greatest influence over my life.
Friday afternoon and the predictable occurred. I got another e-mail from the computer workshop saying that my PC was mended and ready for collection. Right, let’s go! The email was sent at 15.43 and, oh no, the workshop shuts at 16.00 on Fridays. Could I get up, get dressed, drive to the University, park the car, pay the parking fee and run to the workshop ? All in 17 minutes? No, of course not!
Monday morning – raining heavily, of course. I e-mail the workshop to check that my computer memory stick has also been disinfected. No reply. I venture out anyway. Collect the box, drive home, connect the spaghetti and press the ‘start’ button. It whirs, seemingly for ages, and then the screen flickers and, yes, it comes to life. Except all the front-page icons have been rearranged and the font everywhere has been changed, but who cares? 'It' is back home from hospital, virus-free.
Which is more than can be said for that other virus-infected body – to be honest my symptoms seem static, maybe even slightly worse. If only my hard drive could be so rapidly disinfected. I’m off to bed for a little rest.
Tuesday – a post-virus symptom. My memory stick will not show my folders. I phone the helpdesk only to get the recorded bilingual message, some five or six times, until, yes, a live human being answers. My folders are greyed our, actually they are yellowed out, I confusingly tell him. 'Click on this, click on that, apply this' and hey presto, it's all cured. If only my other bodily virus were clickable.
Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday – I'm running on two rather than four cylinders. How can a tiny squiggle of viral RNA in a protein coat have such a devastating effect on such a large man? But I'm getting better slowly. I'm beginning to write again.
To be continued and hopefully concluded …………..