As readers of my ex-blog, The Lumber Room, may remember, i was hospitalised with asthma once a year between 2004 and 2009. My last seriousish attack was in March this year, when i was living with Morgana, not yet begun to teach in Ultima Thule, and i felt unsure if i even could teach, having failed so horribly in Kiel. There is usually an obvious physical trigger – in March it was a combination of Lilly (Morgana’s dog) and Bones (a puppy Morgana was looking after, for an ex-Special Forces Macedonian teacher). In England it was dust, cold, abrupt exercise (sprinting as soon as i exited one workplace, to burn off the adrenaline of hatred), and also running out of meds for a couple of days.

At the time of the attack the physical trigger seems explanation enough, but looking back a pattern emerges – times of uncertainty, protracted dismay, a sense that i should not exist, i have no place in the world, no worthwhile skills. So it was serious when i was an infant (one of my first memories is of sitting on the edge of my bed struggling to breathe) – my environment unpropitious – and then went largely underground till i began office work in 2004.

i ran out of my long-term meds on Friday, and felt the asthma worsen, fuelled to some degree by the knowledge that if i didn’t get more soon, i would have to go without till the New Year. In England, i often went a few days without medication, simply because it wasn’t easy to get – first i had to make an appointment at a doctor’s surgery (and in one town, Blackburn, i was turned away from at least 6 doctors, their lists being full, and so i had to go to hospital instead), wait several days, then go, getting permission from my generally savage pitboss; then i had to take the prescription to a pharmacy, drop it off, wait an hour, pick it up. Easy enough if one has no job, has a car, but not so easy for a working man reliant on public transport, at the mercy of a Cro-Magnon pitboss. i had so little energy for anything in those years, in the trenches, that remembering to make a doctor’s appointment, a week before the meds ran out, was generally beyond me.

People die of asthma all the time, even in the west. i think at least two of my serious attacks were provoked by running out of medication, because it was so complicated and difficult to get more. i didn’t expect it would be easy to get any in Germany, even with my 600 Euros/month medical insurance. i was therefore pleasingly surprised, when i asked for an appointment, to find the receptionists could print me off a prescription themselves, in about 30 seconds. Not what i would have expected from German bureaucracy, but in some ways Germany is more responsively human, less rule-bound, than England.  i was tempted to ask for some crack cocaine and LSD and hash but didn’t want to push my luck, and anyway i would only end up feeding them to my hippy flatmate’s hippy dog, or my students.