Agenda: John Newman; Julia Davis; wedding season; 10 O'Clock Live; New York-style dining

People, places, notes and observations...

Middle-class problems: Hygiene

By Marianne Levy

And so, I ask myself once more, is this clean? It looks clean. It smells clean. But could I lick it without getting ill? Yes, I know it's a wheelie bin. Still… could I?

Louis Pasteur's discoveries might have saved millions, but man, he's made life annoying. Got your hand-sanitiser gel? And your worktop spray? How about an automated, touch-free soap dispenser? Because there's really nothing worse than getting dirty fingers in the four seconds before you wash your hands.

The resulting paranoia means that there are many, and I very much include myself, who waft around trying not to touch anything at all. I shut toilet doors with my elbows, I avoid shaking hands to the point of rudeness and when it comes to escalators, it seems I'd rather tumble 100ft through a string of aghast commuters than risk being contaminated by the handrail.

I do know it's pointless – that short of relinquishing all human contact, those wily little wrigglers will get me however much I spray and wipe and squirt. I understand that a bit of gunge is good for the immune system and I'm well aware that crushing 99.9 per cent of germs sounds great (until the remaining 0.1 per cent rise up to destroy us all).

So it seems that I have two options. The first is just to accept that life is a mucky old business; that it's unlikely my flame will be snuffed out by whatever it is that resides under the rim of the loo. The second is to walk the earth in an irradiated plastic bubble, like a gigantic, sterile hamster.

Thank goodness option two hasn't been invented… yet.

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