If pigs had wings, what would you catch? Swine flu. Boom boom.

What is this, Armageddon? Gomorrah II? The banks crash, the planes fall out of the sky, unemployment soars, there are no sunspots on the sun, and now there are newspapers with reports that up to 40% of the people in the country could catch swine flu. It’s like ordinary flu, but you get it from close contact with pigs, or just by spluttering when you have it. Sales of disinfectant will be set to soar. Someone had to do well out of the recession, and it looks as if it will be Dettol.

The trouble is, I have become a bit Oh Yes Really? about these kinds of reports. After all, the Y2K, aka The Millennium Bug, never transpired. Millions were made backing up data and making machines safe. But not a solitary case took place. So, 40%? Do they expect me to believe that? Will ham-eaters like myself be at extra risk, or will we be granted immunity? Will the price of bacon rise? Or are they telling porkies?

Headlines are a bit inclined to carry panic (a bit like swine flu, really, they’re contagious). Some rare breeds of cattle, not unlike the long-extinct aurochs, were introduced into Devon last week. They were descended from species bred by the Third Reich, so of course, they were billed as ‘Hitler’s Cows’ (a bit stupid, since, unless it is a rural myth, he was a vegetarian), and even as ‘Nazi Cows’, as if they might terrorise the county with cruel Gestapo tactics and a penchant for invading nearby fields.

A Devonian 'auroch'

A Devonian 'auroch'

Still, swine flu has got some people going. What’s happening in Jerusalem? ‘Deputy Health Minister Yakov Litzman said the reference to pigs is offensive to both religions and “we should call this Mexican flu and not swine flu,” he told a news conference at a hospital in central Israel.’ So, being offensive to Mexicans is all right, then? And this from the country which recently invested a sow’s ransom in dropping bombs on Gaza!

But it’s still leading the news. I was concerned to see that one of my favourite reporters, Channel 4’s Sarah Smith, was pictured in Mexico wearing a mask that matched her dress (white and white). If this kind of thing continues, I am going to have to go out and get myself a black mask. I have been an aficionado of black for a long time. I don’t know why. I am not a Hamletoholic. Before black, it was blue. It’s just that I find that black matches black.

I once played Kirby Groomkirby in N.F.Simpson’s ‘One Way Pendulum’, a great play, but one that transferred very poorly to film (Eric Sykes had the main part and he was dreadful). It made that classic error, trying to make something funny, by being funny. You make things funny by playing them straight.

However, my character, a small part, was the catalyst, and he wore black. He wore black because he liked it. But, being philosophical, he needed a reason. So he killed people (kindly, he told them a joke first), as an excuse to wear mourning. In the play he plans to teach a thousand speak-your-weight machines to sing the Hallelujah Chorus, the aim being to take them to North Pole, thereby attracting a crowd who will jump up and down on command, thereby causing a new ice age, thereby shifting the Earth’s axis, thereby causing mass death, therefore justifying his wearing black.

I am not wearing black because of N.F. Simpson, or because of swine flu.


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