I think I would be wise to go out and throw myself under a bus. As I have previously explained, there is – it is still going on – a bus war in this village, with two rivals firms still slugging it out for phantom passengers. There is no sign of it abating. So there are plenty of buses going past my front door, any one of which might do the trick.
The reason for this sudden suicidal impulse can be found here. It is a grizzly analysis of the tea-drinking habits of northern Iranians in the province of Golestan. It concludes that drinking hot tea is the cause of cancer of the oesophagus, or rather, increases the risk of such a cancer at a truly alarming rate. The cancer has the hilariously unlovely full name of oesophageal squamous cell carcinoma. I think it is squamous that is the bothersome word here (it means ‘covered with scales’).
Now I don’t want to give the impression that I read the British Medical Journal from cover to cover. That would be like the famous incident in Three Men In A Boat (full title, Three Men In A Boat (To Say Nothing Of The Dog), in which the narrator reads a medical dictionary and decides that he has the lot. I just spot articles provided by my internet provider, AOL, and read them, to stop myself working so hard. And AOL has gone to town on the Golestan research.
And what AOL says is ‘Let your tea stand for longer than two minutes’ – or, in effect, you are on the high road to a horribly squamous end. This is very bad news. One of the ways I keep warm is by drinking hot tea, with almost no milk in it all, and – look away now, this will offend almost any purists – I generally drink Earl Grey with one aspartame tab. The aspartame, of course, could also cause me some cancer problems. There was a report a few years ago that rats died when fed aspartame and that the sweetener was “a multipotential carcinogenic compound whose carcinogenic effects are also evident at a daily dose of 20 milligrams per kilogram of body weight (mg/kg), notably less than the current acceptable daily intake for humans”. Leukemia was one projected outcome, although this was sweetly and hotly denied by the makers of aspartame. I have yet to discover whether bergamot oil, which gives Earl Grey its flavour, causes cancer. (All right, I have just looked, and a) bergamot oil is used as a defence against malaria, and b) Twinings, which is the brand I drink, don’t use bergamot oil but an artificial flavouring. I am beginning to panic.)
One of the few treats in life is to drink hot tea, unstewed, and quietly sweetened. I break up my day with the stuff. I’ve given up coffee, more or less, and now I have to be threatened by AOL with info that, because they like it hot in Iran, my oesophagus could go scaly. So I may end it, and the bus is easiest. There will be another one along in a minute.