My jaw has swollen up.
Doctor Barn thinks it's an abscess.
The refined preraphaelite features of Ireland's greatest living poet have contorted into a permanent Nazi sneer.
You almost wouldn't know me.
In fact I look like nothing so much as the evil Gestapo man from Where Eagles Dare.
The guy who shouts "Sit down Colonel," a couple of times in the film.
Doctor Barn thought it was funny when I shouted "Sit down Colonel," in his surgery today.
Although he didn't think it was quite so funny the next ten times I shouted it.
Ah I'm a howl.
At least I feel like howling.
I'm telling you noble voyagers of the internet, you must beware the old self pity.
Self pity is very debilitating.
Although not quite as debilitating as raw pain.
In the afternoon I met up with Andrea for coffee.
She's just recently brought a child into the world.
Her baby is called Lena.
A new soul standing before the altar of God.
That old gag.
Normally I'd wax poetical about the beauty of the baby, gentle readers, but I'm feeling too sorry for myself to bother.
The birth took two days by the way, and only finished when the doctors decided to do a Caesarian section.
This afternoon, Andrea and me talked about my jaw.
Ensconced in a corner table at the Cafe Noir, she listened patiently while I regaled her with tales of the pain I'm in.
Folks you gotta savour the irony.
A woman who has just given birth, listening to me complaining piteously about a tooth ache.
Welcome to my world.
Needless to say, Andrea is a lady of great depth.
Being a friend of mine, she needs to be.
Evening time saw the Mighty Heelers complete with jutting jaw and burgeoning self pity, attending a community event in the town of Kilcullen. The gathering had been organised by Nessa Dunlea who is Chairwoman of the town's Heritage Committee.
It was a sort of reunion to commemorate an archaeological dig that took place nearby at the end of the 1960's.
It was a pleasant enough little get together.
There was tea, buns, and an exhibition of memorabalia.
I was browsing, tea cup in hand, in front of a large photo of the archaeologist and his entourage.
My main concern at that moment was when, where, and if, Doctor Barn's drugs might actually take away some of the agony I was feeling.
A local businessman accosted me.
He did so in friendly manner.
These things always start in friendly manner.
"James," he said jovially, "what do you think the population of Ethiopia is?"
That's how he began the conversation.
I recognised the reference.
"For crying out loud," I said, "you've been reading bloody Myers and his bloody population control rubbish again, haven't you? Listen to me. The problems of Africa have never been caused by too many people. The problems of Africa are caused by too many wars, too many civil wars, too many genocidal wars, too many African fascists, too many Arab Islamist dictators, too many Marxists, and too many regimes backed by China and Russia. The problem is not, and never was, too many people."
The businessman grinned.
"So you read the Myers article too?" he wondered enthusiastically.
"Not only did I read it, I inspired it," I told him grimly. "Myers took the idea for that article off my website. Two weeks ago I wrote a modest light hearted piece warning that western charities were effectively propping up African dictatorships. I had tried to put a little focus on the crimes against humanity that African governments habitually commit. Of course the first thing that happened after I wrote it, was a similar piece of analysis appeared in a national newspaper written by Ian O'Doherty. I don't care if O'Doherty is copying me or not. At least O'Doherty has something you might mistake for a sense of humour on a dark night. But a week later bloody Myers starts writing the same sort of stuff. Only Myers misses the point completely. Myers starts off with that nonsense question about the population of Ethiopia. Bloody population control rubbish. The atheists always think there's too many people. I'll tell you what. I wish there were more Africans and less bloody Myerses. Africa is a rich continent. It could feed any number of people. The problem is the dictators have been murdering their own people for the past fifty years. No one can run a business or a farm because the warfare is just continuous. It has to stop."
The businessman shrugged.
"I agree with you in part," he said. "But the real problem is the Americans."
It was a Kodak moment.
A tumbleweed blew through the packed assembly room of Kilcullen Heritage Centre.
Finally I broke the silence.
"What?" I said.
It was a "what" richly laden with incredulity and threat.
Up to now, there have been two great what's
in the history of English language discourse.
The first great what
occurred in an episode of Fawlty Towers when Polly told Basil that Lord Melberry was a confidence trickster.
The second great what
occurred when my inimitable Uncle Scutch was discussing greyhounds with Fonsie Macclebaines and Fonsie suggested they try bribing the racing manager in Tralee to give the Uncle's dog an easy grade in a listed race.
Now a third great what
has joined them.
It was a most explosive what.
"What?" I said and I meant it to sting.
I have grown used to hearing people convict the Americans of all sorts of wrongdoing.
It's been years since I've spoken in public against such nonsense.
He was going to blame America for the cataclysmic abysmal socialist communist Arabist Islamist fascist basket case that is Africa.
"It's the Yanks," persisted the businessman. "The Yanks have caused it all. The famines. The wars. Everything."
My eyes were out on stalks.
They were more bulbous than my jaw.
"Are you insane?" I breathed. "Are you teetotally congenitally incurably nuts? The people of Africa got cheated by their own independence movements. Every single ruler in post colonial Africa ran to Moscow. They all tried to create communist dictatorships. All of them. They all thought there was no God. And true enough. Where they ruled there was no God. Hell followed with them."
"The Arabs don't think there's no God," said the businessman.
I digested this.
"Right," said I, "they think there's a God who allows them to kill limitless numbers of human beings and call it ice cream. Funny that the deeply religious followers of the peaceloving religion of Islam had no problem becoming satelite States first of the Soviet Union and now of communist China."
"Ah James," he cried. "Your problem is you've stopped reading the papers."
"The papers read me," I roared, "they read me when they want ideas and just occasionally when they genuinely care about what the truth might be."
"You're raving," rejoined the businessman. "Africa is a basket case because the Americans have destabilised it for their own ends. It's geopolitics. They are incurable meddlers in other countries affairs. It's all they do. It's all they know how to do."
I nodded bitterly.
"Yes the Americans are meddlers," I said. "But not in Africa. They meddled in Britain, Ireland, France, Italy, Germany, and all of free Europe. They meddled in the sense that they stopped the Nazis from conquering all of us. Otherwise we'd all be slaves in the Third Reich. And the Americans meddled again during the Cold War, didn't they, when they stopped the Russians from simply swallowing up our countries."
The businessman was by no means abashed by my rhetoric.
"You need to read a few people who know what they're talking about," he proclaimed shrilly. "You need to read Noam Chomsky, Michael Moore, Robert Fisk..."
"And Lord Haw Haw," I finished for him.
Our conversation would have continued in similar vein, only at that moment photographer Pat Fogleburg swooped on us.
"I must get a picture of this," Fogleburg exclaimed.
I held up a hand.
"No pictures," I said. "It's alright for my friend here. He's a respected businessman in the town. But I can't afford any more documentary evidence of my propensity for getting into pointless rows in public."
Whereupon I moved swiftly towards the tea and bun table at the far end of the room.
Surprisingly enough, no one tried to follow me.