Smuggling germs through Britain

They say there is no known cure for the common cold. You feel a cold coming on, there is not much you can do but lie down, lay in supplies — nose spray, lozenges, cough syrup, tons of tissues — and let it run its course.

I have read that three or four days is the normal duration of the common cold. Then there is the uncommon cold that lasts a lot longer and makes the victim feel like he had just finished dead last in the running of the bulls of Pamplona.

A cold will sometimes give hints like sniffles or a cough or aches to let you know it is coming in case you want to make plans or cancel engagements (or even weddings), or accept an invitation to Oslo to collect your Nobel Peace Prize.

This one did send out a signal — on the Friday before a Sunday departure for a long-awaited holiday, a coach tour of England, Scotland and Wales with a few days in London tacked on at the end.

On such occasions and under such circumstances, it’s decision time. Should you take a chance and hope your cold will be a light one, but still risk the possibility of infecting a coachload of nocent souls? Or whether to best serve your fellow man, cancel, and let thousands of dollars go down the tube?

We left as scheduled.

Of all mankind’s many maladies the cold is among the most difficult to conceal. Our coach had not even passed the outer limits of London before heads turned to determine the location of the hacking, coughing, sneezing, wheezing, snuffling germ culture easily identifiable by the redness of his schnoz and the mound of tissues at his feet.

It was as though, having read about the Black Death in English history, they feared it may be back.

At the rest stops along the way (our English lady guide called them “Tea and Tinkle” breaks, and I wondered how a Hamilton steelworker might handle that) fellow travellers seemed to avoid my company.

First, an English-speaking man from St. Agathe among a group of six began to sniffle and wheeze. The other five soon began to join in, followed by a French speaking elderly lady from Québec City. They sneezed bilingually.

Next, a hale and hearty businessman from New Zealand came a cropper. Daily, almost hourly, one by one and sometimes in twos and threes, the number of casualties grew as we journeyed through the beautiful countryside of Scotland, the Isle of Skye, St. Andrews, Edinburgh — all places I must return to when my eyes are not watering.

This, I might add, is the first coach tour of any length that I have undertaken and I made plus and minus marks in my diary. The main advantage I felt was having someone else do the driving.

I can get lost in a phone booth, and as often happens with many married folk, ill feeling (!) can result as my wife and I disagree on where or even if we are lost and who fouled up this time.

I learned that to more thoroughly enjoy this type of travel, it is best to be flexible, broadminded — and, most importantly, feel up to snuff. Nevertheless we came home with some great memories of unforgettable scenery and pleasant people and plan to visit Wales next.

In retrospect, I best remember the message of hope of a passing Scot as I rested coughing and crumpled against a lamppost in Edinburgh, waiting for my wife to return from a shopping detour.

“Ye are nae deed yet y’know” he said.

Words of encouragement I will remember as long as I live.

The Way I See It Anyway.