Actually, that’s not quite true: I intended a fully blown self-righteous rant about how folk in what we condescendingly call ‘developing democracies’ are so pleased to be able to have a say in who has them beaten up that they will queue for hours, days even, outside polling stations and compare it with the pitiful credentials in the West where we take so much for granted. So I looked up figures (it’s called ‘research’ in more pretentious blogs) for turnout in elections over these past ten years, only to find that although not up there in the 99pc level we find in North Korea and Kazakhstan, all of whom also are so pleased with their current dictator that they vote him back into office, it has not just been holding steady, but has often gone up. Oh, well.
But I don’t necessarily give up that easily (i.e. sometimes I do give up very easily): according to this site which has a graph listing electoral turnout in the EU overall and in the UK for every EU election from 1979 to 2014, turnout is declining rather sadly. In the EU it was above 60pc and has dropped to just above 40pc; and here in the UK - never quite the EU cheerleader of popular myth, of course - it has remained more or less steady at just around the mid-30s. OK, I’ll be honest: here in the UK it has risen slightly. If you look at the site I have linked to above, you will see it was around 32/33pc in 1979, then fell to a pretty catastrophic 25pc in 1999, but at the most recent election, in 2014, it went up to 35/36pc, thereby wrecking my thesis and making an outraged rant just that much more difficult. Oh, well. So I’d better swiftly move on to hives.
. . .
I’ve done a bit of scouting around - call it ‘research’ if you must insist on doing so, although I don’t being the unpretentious, down-to-earth, meat-and-potatoes Cornish hillbilly who likes to call a spade a fucking shovel - and have come up with this: our cells produce a substance called histamine which is related to our immune system and white blood cells.
This is what causes all those nasty symptoms such as headaches, a runny nose, thick throat and, in my case, itching and tickling. These are usually useful immune responses, for example a runny nose is intended to clear whatever shouldn’t be there out of your nose. But often histamine production gets out of control.
Our bodies also produce a substance called diamine oxidase, one of whose functions is to keep histamine production in check, but in some circumstances it sometimes doesn’t keep histamine in balance, so histamine builds up in our bodies. And that’s when you get, as I am getting, some of those nasty symptoms for no obvious reason. So, hayfever sufferers will get runny noses and eyes because the histamine is going into overdrive trying to clear the pollen from noses and eyes. I’ve also come across lists of several foods we are advised to avoid as they contribute - or are said to contribute - to the amount of histamine produced. Some also contain it, apparently. And here it is Sod’s Law for the second time: many of them are pretty much what I eat regularly.
It isn’t just that I like them, but they are said to be good for you. So, for example, the German in my is partial to herrings - remember all the health advice about eating ‘oily fish’? Sometimes I get a jar of rollmops, but more often I buy tins of herring and mackerel. They, I’m now told, are no-no as far as keeping the lid on histamine in your body is concerned.
Then there’s yoghurt. And I don’t mean the sweetened, flavoured shite which is crammed full of E numbers to ‘prolong shelf life’. I’m talking about the original, unsweetened Greek and Turkish yoghurt. I had it once when I was very young, and I didn’t like it, so I never had it again. But a few weeks ago desperately casting about to find some way to end this bout of hives, I began eating half a 500g tub of Greek yoghurt with three chopped-up satsumas for breakfast.
Yes, my skin cleared up in a matter of days, although the itching continued. Not only that, but I found I actually liked the stuff (though I do sprinkle a little sugar over it). And aren’t we always told to eat natural yoghurt and that a lifetime’s diet of the bloody stuff, both as a sweet and savoury element of their meals has ensured that any number of Greeks and Turks (and I don’t doubt other Middle Easterners) live until they are well over a century old. Healthy or what?
Well, possibly, except that the pages of foods to avoid to keep a check on histamines includes - well, you guessed it. Also listed are nuts - I eat them all the time and we’re always told they are healthy; legumes - ditto; salami and other processed meats - ditto and possibly the only meat I eat in an otherwise pretty vegetarian diet (though not for political reasons or out of principle. I happen not to eat that much meat); alcohol - so what does that say about drinking a glass of red wine a day, which is pretty much what I do, is good for ‘cardiovascular health’? And on it goes: pretty much my whole diet is a no-no as far as histamine is concerned. But...
But, and there has to be a ‘but’, why did it start about seven months ago when I have eaten the same diet for years? (I forgot to add that I eat very, very few wheat products, again not out of principle or for political reasons - if you know what I mean - but simply because I just feel better.) Members of the jury, retire now and consider your verdict. Because I’m buggered if I know what’s going on, despite all my ‘research’.
. . .
Last Monday, I was sitting at work when I was rung by the assistant to our paper’s astrologer to be told the great man had died. (Incidentally, the assistant is a semi-retired journalist who supplemented his income by assisting the great man in his worldwide operation - his predictions were carried by a great many newspapers from here to Patagonia, all of them, it has to be said, 24-carat bollocks, but more of that later (©Geoffrey Levy).
David N, for it was he, told me that our astrologer had been found dead early in the morning by his wife. He had suffered a heart attack, apparently his third. He had not been feeling well for a year or two since the second. Now, although I am about to poke as much fun as I can at the great man, Jonathan Cainer, I shall first mention that I do feel for his wife and, particularly, his seven children (by three different women). For them it’s a personal thing and they have lost a partner/father. I should also add that Cainer did actually believe the twaddle he was selling.
Apparently, he wasn’t paid by the Daily Mail, but his personal predictions - suckers could call a phoneline for their start in which Cainer would give a more tailored reading - made him his money. He had also, over several years, so it was some operation, painstakingly built up a database of based on the exact time and the place of your birth. David sent me mine and it was a substantial piece, about 60 pages of A4. I was given mine to be shown quite how extensive Cainer’s operation was. Everyone else had to pay for them, and they were not cheap.
Here is a screenshot of his price list:
What you got for your £24 to £39 might seem quite impressive. In fact, if the child born in the same hospital within minutes of your also sent off for his or hers, it would be identical. Jonathan Cainer had built himself quite a reputation, and the Daily Mail made the most of him as a ‘brand’. But there will not be one hack in Northcliffe Towers in West London where the great paper is produced who did not agree with me that astrological predictions generally and the stuff Cainer produced in particular was complete bollocks. You might as well read a First Great Western rail timetable to get an idea of your day today will be a good one and whether the stars are favourable for you to apply for a mortgage. So the front page the day after his death says more about the Mail - and, to be fair, papers in general - than about Cainer. Here it is - note mention of the man’s ‘genius’:
I shall concede that in one way Cainer was clever: his schtick was simple. He was always, always, always upbeat. Not once, as in never, did he ‘predict’ anything negative or sad or bad. So it’s no wonder that the gullible of the world made him one of their first ports of call.
Me? Scorpio, if you were wondering. They do say about Scorpios that they are the star sign most likely to laugh during a funeral and to die by being stabbed in back.