Before I even begin to write about swine flu, I want to make it very clear that I am not going to have it. I decided, early on, that it is a ridiculous disease. I am the opposite of a hypochondriac and I think antibacterial hand lotion is the work of the devil. I am northern, hardcore and I don't get fashionable illnesses. Which is why this brutal cold I seem to have is particularly embarrassing.
This summer, nobody in Britain is allowed to sneeze in public without being immediately taken into quarantine. Anyone with a mild hangover on the Tube is looked at as a suspected plague victim. And it's worse for people who actually are ill. A colleague called her doctor to report a painful rash down one side of her body, and feeling generally as rough as rats. "Swine flu," replied the overworked medic, prescribing Tamiflu and bed rest. And yes, 10 points to the first person who diagnosed shingles. It was, and it would have been much less distressing if it could have been treated earlier.
When I woke up on Thursday with a sudden cough and a nasty headache I was nervous about taking public transport and going into work. As it happens, I was perfectly fine. Well, apart from the cough, the headache, and the fact that someone had clearly sneaked in during the night and comprehensively kicked me from head to foot.
My midnight assassin had obviously hung around to turn the heating up and down wildly in my flat, because I couldn't seem to get out of bed without my teeth chattering. But as I don't own a thermometer (I mean, I'm not totally wet) there was no way to prove that I didn't have a temperature. The sweating I put down to it being summer. The groaning is just something I do anyway.
Swine flu has made us a nation of scaredy cats, but it's not just the usually stoical British who are in a panic. Last week, President Nicolas Sarkozy fainted while jogging – a malady clearly caused by too much exercise and not enough pies. I blame that Carla Bruni (for most things; why not?).
The traditional antidote to fainting is to have a Mars bar and go back to work, but instead Mr Sarkozy was kept in hospital overnight while an anxious world awaited news. The next day newspapers reported him looking pale and shaky, which was in contrast to the photos of him looking tanned, chipper and perfectly fine. And really, if the French President can't have a little faint when he feels like it, then the free world really is in a pickle.
Swine flu, not that I would know, is milder than regular flu but is paradoxically easier to catch. Even so, I was a little bit put out to be banned from coming within a five-mile exclusion zone of The Independent on Sunday office. I am writing this propped up in bed, and, honestly, if I keep necking the painkillers I can pretty much just see straight enough to put one word in front of another. It hurts to type. But there's probably a completely innocent explanation for that. And I have another symptom that's not mentioned on the NHS website: being unable to dance even when "Poker Face" comes on Heart FM.
So, swine flu is not coming on and, even if it were, it's probably nothing to worry about anyway, but if I'm not making sense that could be because I'm a little bit delirious. I promise it's not like me to be quite so pathetic and utterly dependent on so much orange squash I've drowned my phone in the stuff. But, hey, at least I haven't got swine flu.
WAG attack Diss Liverpool at your peril
Forgive me if this is stating the obvious, but is Alex Curran missing something? Nine days ago, her husband Steven Gerrard won the jammiest court victory in recent memory and was cleared of affray after admitting hitting a man very hard several times in a nightclub. To be thumped by the Liverpool captain is practically an honour was the implication. But are the couple grateful? Nope.
"To be honest, [Liverpool] is rough," said Curran to a magazine last week. Going out there "isn't the same any more".
"Everywhere new that opens attracts the wrong type of people. It's not nice, so I haven't bothered to go out."
One dreads to imagine what Curran calls the right type of people, but this is not all that should have given her pause. Did she learn nothing from Boris Johnson? From Ringo Starr? Has she forgotten about Hillsborough and The Sun?
As a suburban wannabe who grew up in the Wirral, I wouldn't dream of speaking for genuine Scousers. But I know they have long memories, and they don't appreciate being called chavvy by a WAG. If she can't appreciate the glory of Liverpool, Curran should find somewhere else to go out for the next 75 years or so. Perhaps Cheshire would have her.
And now... the Chimp Booker
Winning the Man Booker Prize isn't just about writing a good book. It must be published – well, marketed – to absolute perfection.
Which is why so much Big Fiction is published all at once in September, just before the Booker deadline. (Previous winners Margaret Atwood, J M Coetzee, Thomas Keneally and John Banville all have books out just before the end of next month.) Coetzee's Summertime is indeed the 3/1 favourite to win, but the underdog's vote has to go to James Lever's Me Cheeta, the fictional autobiography of Tarzan's chimp.
I'd bet the debut novelist never dreamed he'd find his book up alongside AS Byatt, William Trevor, et al. I can't wait to read Cheeta's write-up of the prize dinner.
Gary's story is Oscar material
Hollywood producers are missing a trick if they haven't yet bought the rights for the story of Gary McKinnon. He's the Glasgow-born 43-year-old with Asperger's syndrome who has lost his bid not to be extradited to the US to face trial for hacking into Nasa, the Pentagon and other military computers. With celebrity backers from Julie Christie and Dave Gilmour to The Proclaimers and Terry Waite, a plucky mother (played by Julia Roberts with her Erin Brockovich hair on) and now Barack Obama involved, it would be a shoo-in for an Oscar.
The question remains: who will play the Home Secretary, Alan Johnson? And will he be played as the last-minute hero who saves the day, or the oily British baddy who fails to intervene?
Janet Street-Porter is away