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The problem is the plane trees. Even though I have Googled their miserable pollen-riddled selves and the Hive Mind of Medicine that is internet suggests that they are not, in actual fact, the scourge of my existence, I have chosen to disagree. Because I have proof. I walk down Grey’s Inn Road each and every day. Twice, in fact. So up and down, or rather down and up, for those playing the home game, like The Mom, and tracking my every move lest I become entangled or embroiled in something nefarious,, suspicious, or with consequences that will likely be expensive. Never mind. Gray’s inn Road. It’s quite pretty, actually. A wide street, by English standards, with walls taller than me enclosing a lovely garden where I used to take my lunch years ago when I had a different job at a different company.

The only problem with this particular street is that it is bounded on either side by plane trees. They are lovely to look at, big and tall and old and green which is something of an unusual relief in London which is primarily grey and damp or grey and dusty, depending on the season. The plane trees remind me that somewhere out there nature is carrying on, and that’s, by and large, good.

However, there is a time every year, and that time is now, when they bloom. Normally blooming is a good thing and suggests rebirth and time continuing and everything doing as it should. But when the plane trees bloom these little brown fluffs start to fill the air and that’s when things take a very bad turn. A turn for the worst is only the start.

I don’t actually first notice them on Grey’s Inn Road. I first don’t notice them but wonder why my trusty Speedo swimsuit has suddenly become the most itchy piece of clothing I own, when previously it could be counted on to be exactly the same as it has been, smooth and with a way of making me feel like a fish, for the past twenty-five years of my life. There will be a day in late spring, or maybe it’s early, I suppose it depends on how global warming is feeling at the time, when I go for a swim, and as I walk to the pool (Speedo on under my clothes) that I find myself feeling horribly itchy. I normally put this down to eczema or dairy or something I’ve done to myself, like laundry soap. This will go on for a couple of weeks until itchiness is but a distant memory because I can no longer think straight or remain awake for longer than four hours at a time.

And I always think I have a cold. Always. Without fail. I’ll write to The Mom and bemoan my miserable luck, a cold when finally the weather is getting nice. I’ll put it on my Facebook page and this will elicit the required amount of sympathy from friends near and far.

And then the cold will not shift. It will linger in a way that colds do not. And my ears will start to get itchy and feel funny on the inside – humid, as a friend once pointed out. That’s about the point in time when I realise that goddamnit, this is not a cold.

This is hay fever. And it is particularly miserable. And it is entirely the fault of the plane trees.

As a child, my allergies were bad. To the point that The Mom had to sequester me inside once a fortnight when Your Father was told to mow the lawn. Nevermind that I loved the smell of freshly cut grass or rolling happily around in it afterwards, niope, that was not for me. Not anymore. Because I would come inside, an itchy, rashy, sniffling, snorting, eyewaterring mess. That and we went through so many tissues it was becoming absurd.

The Mom is a newcomer to this sort of seasonal allergy and she doesn’t cope with it very well either. This year, though, hers haven’t been nearly as bad as mine and I dare say I’m looking forward to putting a fair bit of distance between myself and the evil plane trees. Funnily enough, when I arrive home for my annual summer visit, The Mom’s town will have seen fit to be done with anything that might bloom and cause me misery which I think is fair enough. It costs me an arm and a leg to fly home and so at least I should be guaranteed an allergy-free vacation.

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