I’ve always felt sympathetic towards people who  suffer from hayfever or other allergic reactions to whatever tickles their sinuses. I have a profounder insight now into just what a right royal pain in the arse in the arse this can be.

I’m one of the many people who can be triggered to sneezing by bright sunlight. It’s a minor inconvenience, and though the phenomenon is well known and documented, nobody has a real grasp of the aetiology, the underlying cause. It’s not a glamorous research topic, is it? Grants are going to be thin on the ground. And it’s kinda hard to avoid sunlight, isn’t it?

Research grants? Here’s a topic for you. Something nobody warned me about. Radiotherapy on your head and neck, first you get chronic rhinitis, or runny nose as we civvies call it. Well, I don’t, because strictly I’m not a scientific civvie. It’s annoying though even if not too surprising, since my mucus membranes took quite a hammering from radiation.

What nobody else mentioned are the sneezing fits. I get these every day. Two or three times a day, maybe more. Ten, twelve sneezes in a row. Given the rhinitis, this can be a snotty, messy process. I tend to have a lot of kitchen towel on hand, but if I get caught temporarily on the hop, there can be a lot of spray. Then I need to use more kitchen towel to clean up my laptop and its screen. Handy household hint. A towel damped with neat vodka will clean the snot off your screen, buff it up with a dry towel… NO SMEARS! YAY!

I’ve made light of this, since you’ve all heard enough, maybe more than enough, about the cancer, the radiotherapy, the aftereffects. But on a bus or a train, in a bank, in a store, it’s really inconvenient. It’s also unpleasant for me. You can make a hideous mess in a facemask, which I wear rigorously when I’m out in these days still dominated by Covid, if you’re sneezing snottily and uncontrollably. I generally have a couple of spare masks with me.

The dribbling thing in a facemask doesn’t help either in terms of personal aesthetics.