Wednesday, January 7, 2015


So, I ended 2014 and began 2015 sicker than I've ever been in my life.

I have two working theories as to why:
1) God has seen fit to afflict me with The Plague in order to purify me spiritually, because I am Chosen and Blessed and destined to be a Great Prophet.
2) My immune system is shot to pieces, like a tin can at an NRA rally.

I'm making light of it, but it's been terrifying.

Precis version: It started with a small pink welt on my forehead, which I dismissed as a kind of unusual mosquito bite. Or perhaps I’d scratched myself without realising.

A few days later I came down with a sinus infection. This was about a week before Christmas. At the same time, the welt turned into an open wound, began to grow, and then another appeared on my temple. A blister. All kinds of dreadful possibilities (leprosy, flesh-eating bacteria) hacked my equilibrium to pieces before I went to see a doctor, who promptly misdiagnosed me with shingles, told me to buy some hideously expensive anti-viral medication and give it about a week or two to clear up. So there went my summer holiday.

Except it didn’t clear up. It got much, much worse, until I looked like an extra on The Walking Dead. All this underpinned by the kind of fatigue that makes it difficult to walk from room to room, that makes you feel desperate and weepy and scarily helpless.

Two days ago I went back to the surgery, and was seen by another doctor who diagnosed impetigo. A bacterial infection.


I'm on antibiotics now, but have yet to see an improvement.


Naturally, when this kind of thing happens, you look for reasons. What did I do wrong?

I didn't have to look far. I'd been doing too much, of course — too many commitments, too little self-care, no R&R to speak of — and my health had paid the price.

I’ve had a lot of time to think. I’ve been forced to slow down, to do nothing but sit in a chair with a cup of tea and stare at Table Mountain, wreathed in wispy clouds and slanting shadows.

One day, the 30th, I think, I was seized by an intense desire to escape to the woods, to lay down on a bed of pine needles and stare at the gently swaying tree-tops. So that’s what I did, walking slowly, deliberately, cautiously.

I found a secluded spot, slumped onto my back, arms and legs splayed. Gazed up, exhaled.

Behind the black silhouette of reaching pines, curling white whorls of cloud passed by, both fast and slow; a bird of prey glided, silent and stealthy, between the two. The wind whispered through the high branches, offering their secrets to the sky.

It’s time for a radical shift, they told me. And just like that, I had my New Year’s resolution: Radical selfishness; radical self-interest; radical self-love.

Maybe I’ve lost the plot. Maybe I’ve found it. Only time will tell.

My usual reaction to health snafus is to drastically constrain the paramenters of my diet to only the ‘healthiest’ foods (a grey area at best). I’m sure it probably doesn’t do any good, considering I eat pretty healthily in general, but it does at least offer the illusion of control. A mild form of orthorexia, if you will.

Anyway, I made this salad just after Christmas, when I wasn’t yet a sleep-deprived, facially disfigured zombie. It ticks all the right boxes: virtuously healthy, tons of flavour, just plain yummy. We had it on its own, but it would be great as a side to lamb or roast chicken.

If I may, let my woes serve as a cautionary tale: look after yourself please. You just never know what utterly detestable nasties are waiting in the wings, poised to slip through a crack in your immune system when it lags. Get lots of sleep, don’t drink too much, exercise, eat well, make room in your life for pockets of idleness.

It’s pretty simple really. I don’t know why I was such a dolt.

Roast aubergine & rice salad with fior di latte

[Serves 6]

2 large aubergines, sliced
3 large tomatoes, sliced, or 1 punnet baby tomatoes, halved
1½ tsp salt
1 large handful each basil and flatleaf parsley
½ handful mint
1 cup good quality black olives, stones removed and roughly chopped
1 small red onion, chopped
1 cup red, brown or wild rice, cooked
½ cup orzo pasta, cooked

Juice and zest of 1 lemon
½ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 ball fiore di latte, torn

1. Brush the aubergine slices with a little olive oil and place on a baking sheet. Roast at 180C until golden and tender, about 20 minutes, turning halfway.
2. Place the tomatoes in a large salad bowl and sprinkle with the salt. Mix well and set aside for at least 10 minutes. (This really intensifies the flavour of tomatoes, imo.)
3. Add the remaining salad ingredients to the bowl, along with the aubergine and salad dressing, and mix well to combine. Top with the fior di latte and serve.