This week I was afflicted by a cold which developed severe German complications.
I should probably start by saying that the cold itself was a mild one. No fever, no sore throat, barely a sniffle… and of course, not being a proper German yet, I haven’t managed to locate my Kreislauf, so that wasn’t upset in the slightest. No, it wasn’t the sort of cold you’d really mention – let alone blog about, if it hadn’t been the start of everything.
You see, on Monday morning I had just walked into the kitchen with my colleague, Birgit, when I sneezed violently.
It wasn’t a small sneeze… it was one of those eruptive sneezes that come from nowhere like a shotgun going off unexpectedly which scares the chickens two miles away. A sort of nasal explosion. I think it may have shifted the earth’s rotation slightly. Thank Heaven it wasn’t Ruhezeit yet.
The impact of this monstrous sneeze made itself instantly felt in the form of a sort of whip-crack in my lower spine. A pain like a bolt of lightening shot from the small of my back to my knees and up to my shoulders. At that moment I became rooted to the spot because suddenly, any movement – like say, breathing or blinking – seemed to cause excruciating pain in my lower spine. The only thing I could do was clutch the nearest chair for support and gasp.
Birgit looked at me suspiciously as though I’d suddenly developed leprosy.
“You sneezed. Is that a cold?”
“My back. I’ve done something to my back.”
I could tell from the expression on Birgit’s face that she assumed this to be another piece of British ignorance about the human anatomy.
“Nose,” she corrected me.
“No… I’ve got a sudden pain here.” I pointed at my lower spine with one hand while still supporting myself on the chair with the other.
Birgit’s face eased into an amused grin.
“Aha… that’s a Hexenschuss.”
“A Hexenschuss. You know – what you get when a witch points her finger at you and curses you.”
In nearly twenty years of living in the Fatherland, I had been under the impression that Germans were relatively competent when it came to medical matters and advanced science. My occasional experiences of German hospitals had always given me the impression that proper diagnosis and the latest hi-tech treatments were on offer. Now, the illusion was crumbling before my eyes. The diagnosis – from a real live university-educated German – was that my sudden pain was caused by a witch’s curse.
Moreover, in the absence of anyone else in the building, I had to conclude that the only suspect in the case had to be Birgit herself. In the week running up to Halloween, she was obviously getting her finger in practice, ahead of causing real mischief at the weekend.
Germany, of course, has a long tradition of witches and witchcraft – though Halloween is a foreign import. Real German witches focus on Walpurgisnacht on 30th April. I suspect that for German Hexen Halloween just counts as a sort of American theme party.
As I hobble over to get my coffee I surreptitiously check Birgit over for broomsticks and pointy hats.There are no obvious telltale signs… but then I guess German witches blend into the general population fairly easily.