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AT HOME WITH THE WALTONS: I've been bitten by a bug not cupid, stupid.

Byline: adam WALTON

'VE had it once before. I was 15 and my dad, my brother and I had travelled down to Cambridgeshire for my cousin, Karen's, wedding.

There was some giggling and finger pointing in my direction, and being an awkward, angst-ridden spotty teenager, I just assumed that I was being laughed at, because sometimes that's what happens to teenage boys, "Got a big mouth, has she?" someone asked me, with a malicious grin ripped across their face, "Eh?" I blushed and fidgeted, having not the least idea what this stranger was on about, "Your girlfriend..." he said, touching his neck with a woodpecker finger, and pulling the kind of face you usually see in a Carry On film.

I was still none the wiser. I went to the toilet and looked in the mirror.

There was a red patch on my neck. Ittook me all of two minutes to work out why that should have induced so much ribald attention, and when the pennies finally dropped with an audible clank in my head, my face went as red as the patch on my neck, "They think it's a love bite!" I was mortified. Most teenage boys my age would have loved to have such a prominent trophy of their success with the opposite sex; but me, I knew the truth.

I didn't even have a girlfriend. If it was a love bite, it had to have been inflicted on me in my sleep by an alien, maybe, or a 10th level evil cleric casting Astrazamor's Curse, trying to turn me into a fiendish zombie. Ah, Dungeons and Dragons... no wonder I didn't have a girlfriend.

The mark wasn't an alien love bite, a human love bite, or a curse; it was something a little more painful than that.

The truth came out after we had travelled home and the mark started to bubble and blister, and was joined by lots of other, little bubbly and blistery friends that stretched up one side of my neck and face, and into my hair."A classic case of shingles!" said my doctor with too much joy in his voice. "You'll be off school for at least a fortnight," he explained, as if that was going to cheer me up - it didn't, because I had an O-Level to sit during that period: Computer Studies, of course.

I remember it being the most uncomfortable two weeks of my life. Shingles, apparently, is a variation ofthe herpes virus that causes chickenpox, but shingles doesn't mess around with lowly skin cells, shingles is the SAS of viruses and goes straight for the nerve cells. Ow! Ow! And, if you don't mind, Ow! again.

I had almost forgotten about that episode. It was 18 years ago. Then, at the end of last week, a little red rash appeared on my feet. I had fallen out with yet another set of inaccurate bathroom scales - they all seem to be about a stone out - and started panic walking. I would panic jog, but it's not a dignified thing for a 14 and a half stone man to do.

I panic walked eight miles a day for three days in a row. I saw butterflies and herons and goldfinches, gave myself a mild case of sunburn, and felt the Guinness-deposited pounds of fat begin to drop off me, ounce by ounce.

I also had this funny little red rash on my feet. A bit like a love bite. As if anyone would kiss my feet! I thought it was nothing more than prickly heat, or an allergic reaction to my woolly walking socks, or just another manifestation of how horrible feet - and my feet in particular - are, but it wasn't. It's my old friend, shingles, back to visit. Well, I think it is. It's taken me two itchy and scabrous days to get a doctor's appointment, so I won't have my woefully amateurish diagnosis confirmed until this afternoon.

I'm sorry to bang on about it in here, especially if you're eating your breakfast. I would like to think that I have a stoical attitude to illness, but like most men, as soon as my body is visited by the teensiest weensiest bit of discomfort, I have to tell the world about it.

Also, I've never missed a column in this paper and I wasn't going to let a few alien love bites on my feet get in the way of that proud record. It's all right. There's no need to thank me


It's only bug's that bite me not amorous females
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Copyright 2005 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Aug 19, 2005
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