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Writings of Albert Morris
Article 89 - Bacteria-infected ties leave me hot under the collar


LOOKING in the mirror recently, I saw, as I suspected, that my skin was turning green - a mysterious change from my Conservative light-blue. While I have been concerned about the environment and its creatures, I am especially uneasy about the fate of the natterjack tadpole, the water flea and the parasitic nematode worm, not to mention ozone-layer thinning, especially above my house, and the predicted, Hollywood-type invasion of British waters from Norway of monster Red King crabs, weighing up to 25lbs with huge, snapping claws that could devour our helpless shellfish.

Since I was more worried about the chromatic condition of Albertus Morris vulgaris, I consulted my doctor who said that my condition was becoming common among television watchers exposed, even for short periods, to the merciless glare of Tony Blair unfiltered by the John Prescott barrier, designed to remove harmful elements from the outer edge of the political spectrum.

The exposure had actually made some viridescent people fall into a trance-like state broken only by their feverish calls for Tommy Sheridan to become prime minister, an MSP as red as a king crab.

"How long will it last?" I asked. "Might be days, even months," replied the medico.

"It could also be accentuated by the greenhouse effect, combined with concern about the possible realigning of the Gulf Stream, fears that, in decades to come, a lot of the Earth’s land mass might be under several feet of water - with a dampening effect on smokers" - and, pausing for dramatic effect, he added, "exposure to doctors’ ties."

OUT of its depths, my swimming head sank like a stone. The doctor explained: "According to Steven Nurkin, of the Bruce Rappaport Faculty of Medicine, Haifa, Israel, almost half of ties worn by hospital doctors seethe with potentially harmful bacteria."

Mr Nurkin, who conducted his survey at the New York Hospital Medical Centre, spoke recently at the 104th general meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in New Orleans, where the tie was depicted as the equivalent of "Typhoid Mary" - a cook who infected 47 people with the disease in the United States in 1907.

Infected ties, Mr Nurkin claimed, harboured well-known bacteria that often plagued hospitals. The options included getting doctors to wear potentially safer bow-ties, or encasing their ties in glorified "condoms" to shield their anxious patients from such organisms.

Despite my doctor’s belief that the ties worn by general practitioners were probably free from infection, the claims made me hot under my collar.

I am a tie-man with an Edwardian knot for comfort. Although I read a newspaper report of a study by specialists at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, which claimed that a tightly-knotted tie made a man look smarter but could put pressure on the main neck vein, raise internal pressure in the eyes and be one of the causes for the sight-threatening disease of glaucoma, it was the possibility that my ties were tainted that immediately concerned me.

IT was a pain in the neck to accept that my tie representing the Royal Army Mobile Stationery Corps, with a motif of crossed field service pens and two chief clerks rampant, could be the decorative equivalent of a cholera culture.

My East African Army Tailoring Corps offering, with its border of golden cross-stitches and heraldic representation of askaris raising hems under battlefield conditions, might be merely a fabric swamp for coarse and intrusive streptococci, while my ties representing the Rajputana Rifles, the Third Cruiser Squadron and the Russian Tsarist Preobajensky Regiment (officers only), could harbour bacteria ranging from bubonic plague to chicken pox.

I am becoming reluctant not only to rub shoulders with society in general but also to visit hospitals’ and doctors’ surgeries in particular. You never know what off-the-peg sartorial bacteria you could attract. If my 1961 Clackmannan tweed tie is, effectively, a germ-trapping fly-paper, what is flourishing in my 1952 holiday suit in travellers’ check?

All that is turning me blue again. Today, I am wearing natty neckwear in fever yellow with measles spots. Already, I feel an improvement on the parasitic nematode worm. Tomorrow, I expect you will find me in the pink.


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