Coffee? Would you care for 'dead sheep' syrup in that?

Coffee? Would you care for 'dead sheep' syrup in that?

Tracy&James | Thursday, 13 February 2020

Health has been in the headlines a lot lately with the latest coronavirus getting significant coverage. I always find the alarmist media response to such occurrences interesting, more about selling newspapers and making people watch digital marketing than actually passing on any real facts. For example, rarely will they tell you the normal death rate from pneumonia to which the latest coronavirus adds a small number of percentage points – they’d rather stir up panic by concentrating on the 5% of cases caused by a ‘foreign’ virus than the 95% from the home-grown ones (up to 30,000 people die in the UK from pneumonia every year – depending on source). It’s no wonder the public response is so weird at times. Tracy recently returned from the hairdressers and told me about a conversation between other customers that she couldn’t help but overhear; one was explaining to the other that they should avoid Chinese food and restaurants just in case they’re served up the coronavirus on a plate, FFS! I also find the wearing of face masks intriguing, there is no clinical evidence that these significantly reduce the incidence of infection, if there is any benefit from them at all (and it’s not certain there is), it’s because it stops the wearer touching their own mouth and nose as much.

Anyway, to get back to a subject that’s vaguely fishing related (only vaguely) I thought I’d recount a story of how I made myself very ill by picking up an infection whilst on the river.  I should first explain to those who don’t know me about my aversion to fruit (this is critical to the story later on).  I hate all fruit – the taste and the texture of it genuinely makes me vomit before I can even swallow it.  For much of my life people didn’t believe that all fruit would cause this reaction in me, my father once even tried offering me £10 to eat a single orange segment.  I really wanted that cash as, at the time, it was probably 10 weeks pocket money, but a couple of chews in I wretched and his money was safe.  This doubt about whether I was suffering from something real or whether it was really all in my head lasted until fairly recently; until my niece came out as a fellow fruit hater – she finds the smell so abhorrent that she can’t stay in the same room as someone eating an apple or an orange.  

Right, back to the fishing where Tracy and I had stopped for a while for one of our bankside picnics.  I can’t remember what we ate but I’m sure it was scrummy – Tracy likes to take posh nibbles and dips in a small cooler bag that fits into our fishing rucksack.  This was then washed down with our chosen beverage, being as it was winter this was coffee for me and a fruit tea for Tracy (in the summer it would be a bottle of Pinot Grigio obviously).  We have identical flasks but these are clearly marked so we avoid getting them confused, unfortunately the cups on top of them are not marked and my first sip of coffee informed me I was using Tracy’s cup as I could taste the foul taint of ingrained fruit tea (yes, I’m that sensitive to it) .  After a brief discussion about why she was trying to kill me, (was it because I was catching more fish?), we decided to swap cups.  Even though she’d poured fruit tea into my cup we figured that because it had been in there for only a minute or so the flavour wouldn’t be ingrained in it like in her own cup.  As such, the tea was jettisoned; the cup was washed out in the river and then re-filled with coffee.  This still wasn’t great but it was far more palatable than my first drink.  We then went back to fishing.

That evening we went to a restaurant for a birthday celebration with Tracy’s family.  On the way back I started to feel a bit bloated, but put this down to overeating.  I passed on further drinks when we got back to Tracy’s parent’s house, where we were staying the night, and went straight to bed.  In the early hours I awoke and knew straight away from the stomach pains that I needed to get to the loo and fast, luckily I got there.  As the world was expelled from my arse at high velocity it dawned on me that I was going to be sick at the same time.  Knowing I couldn’t take my backside off the toilet there was only one option – projectile vomiting into the sink.  This blocked and filled to the overflow amazingly quickly.  And so began one of the worst 24 hours of my life.

Once recovered we discussed the possible causes; Noroviruswas ruled out because I was the only person who got ill (and it’s almost impossible to stop those in close contact getting it); food poisoning was ruled out for a similar reason (most of the food was shared, banquet style).  Hidden fruit in one of the dishes was a possibility, but this didn’t fit with my normal reaction of recoiling at the merest taste of it.

Then it dawned on me.  Whilst walking up the river from our picnic spot I remembered seeing a dead sheep in the water.  How long this had been there and in what state of decomposition it was in, I don’t know, I didn’t pay much attention at the time.  However, in hindsight I’d clearly washed out my cup in water flowing down from a festering carcass.

These days I’m much more careful when eating or drinking at the river.  Crystal clear water is absolutely no guarantee that it’s not teeming with pathogens that could cause you some potentially serious harm.  We now wrap our food such that we don’t have to touch it with our hands at all when eating it.  We also take hand cleanser for use before we eat – this only takes a matter of a few seconds before it evaporates to dryness.  I’ll also never wash anything out in any river again, especially if I’m subsequently going to use it that day without giving it a proper clean.

Anyway, stay safe and have a great weekend,