Liam Farrell: Bringing a touch of glamour to the URTI

Treat a charlady like a duchess and a duchess like a charlady, goes the old medical epithet; unfortunately we don't have any royalty in rural Ireland, though I did once play football with a chap whose nickname was 'the Duchess'.

Liam Farrell

However, this was what we in comedy call a juxtaposition; he was as bald as an egg, as hard as a jockey's behind and as feminine as a bulldozer.

The closest I've come to encountering royal blood is the stream of film stars who seem to find the wintry pastures and the muddy bogs of rural Ireland more attractive than skiing in St Moritz and barcarolles in the moonlight at Cap d'Antibes.

They come, in the first place, for the annual Wicker Cow film festival, and are so enchanted by the irresistible patter of the unending rain and the unforgettable aroma of the huge steaming piles of cow-dung that they overstay their welcome. Irish people are more 'real', more 'grounded', they tell me. More thick, I reply.

'Dahling,' she drawled. 'I have been feeling so poorly over the past few days.'

'So what, bitch?' I snarled, determined to act in character (gruff country doctor with, underneath it, a heart of gold) and inwardly delighted to a last have a chance to put the old epithet into practice.

'Chills, fever, sore throat, a truly shocking headache,' she continued. 'Could it be...' here she paused dramatically, putting a pearl-pale hand to her forehead before concluding in a dread and throaty whisper: 'The swine flu!'

'Swine flu,' I snorted contemptuously. 'Can't you people think of something more original, with your scriptwriters and all? It's a sad day when Hollywood has been reduced to this? Have you no imagination, no self-respect?

'What about the decadence, the wild parties, the self-destructive lifestyles, flaring like a comet across the skies, rather one day as a lion than a lifetime as lamb, what about James Dean, Rock Hudson, John Belushi, AIDS, cocaine addiction.

'In my day film stars had a bit of class, a touch of fatal glamour. Is that the best you can come up with, a few days of modest discomfort, a minor URTI?'

'But, dahling,' she said, leaning forward earnestly. 'Don't you understand, fashions come, fashions go. AIDS and cocaine are so last year; swine flu, dahling, is the new black.'

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