I grew up on a farm in Ireland and from the age of crawling, I was exposed to shit.
There was cow shit, horse shit, chicken shit, pig shit, sheep shit, goose, duck, goat, dog and cat shit, and other shit that I have trod on, but not noticed. And more than once a passing bird has evacuated its bowels on my head, which Irish logic would explain why I have been exceptionally lucky all my life.
And there was the manure heap, with the daily contents of the piggeries and the chicken houses, together with the remains of dead animals and birds. It was a veritable soup of bacteria, constantly stirred by an army of rats.
Of course, we kept ourselves pristine clean: my mother made me have a bath once a week, but only if I really needed it. Now to some of you that may sound a little extreme, but one should remember that we had no running water until I was eight or nine years old, and then no heating.
The only times I ever had to take a precautionary medical measure, was when, on occasions I cut myself and went to the doctor to have a tetanus injection. And of course, there was the ringworm infection that I had on my forehead, probably from wiping my sweaty brow on a warm day. It started to spread towards my hair and I had to have treatment.
I still have most of my hair, albeit not as lush as formerly
When I migrated to Canada, I first heard of allergies. It was a new word for me. If it existed in Ireland, I had never heard of it before. So many people in Canada seemed to be allergic to something. And there was the modern infliction of stomach ulcers and haemorrhoids. As an innocent Irish immigrant, I was on a steep learning curve.
Some years later, on one of my last nights in Lagos, with some of my friends, I went to my favourite little French bistro in the city. It rained heavily while we ate and when we emerged, the streets were flooded, and the parking lot, where I had left the car – I was driving, was a lake. The sewers had regurgitated their contents, and the water was putrid.
I took off my shoes and socks – I was already in shorts, and waded to the car and managed to start the engine and exit the car park. When my friends got in, they were nauseated by the smell that rose from my legs. When we got back to my apartment, to my amusement, one of the girls (a very city girl) insisted on dousing my legs with disinfectant, despite that I had already showered.
Once in Chamonix in recent years, with Lotta and some of my sons, just about to start dinner, Andrew mentioned that the toilet in his room was blocked. ‘Leave it to me’, I said, and I leapt into action. Sure enough, it the toilet was filled to the brim and solidly blocked. I plunged my arm up to the elbow, pulled and pushed at the blockage, and with an enormous sucking noise, it all disappeared.
Was I treated as a ‘hero’ for my heroic action? Not at all. ‘Yuk’, ‘OMG’, ‘how could you do that? etc. And once again I was doused with all sorts of disinfectants. And dinner was a rather subdued affair.
Sometimes being Irish is no fun… 😦
When it comes to gardening, I can understand women wanting to protect and keeping their ‘hands soft and smooth´, but I have never understood why men wear gloves. To me, gardening in gloves is comparable to sex with a condom: to feel and assess the moisture content and the texture of the soil, one has to get one’s hands dirty. I could never imagine my father or his workers ever wearing gloves in their work.
I remain totally convinced that exposure to germs, bacteria or whatever they are called, from a young age, helps to build a resistance that lasts a lifetime.
I appreciate that my view is diametrically opposed to that of the product propaganda of the cleansing and pharmaceutical companies and most city people.
But then, what do I know?