Friday, 21 August 2015
Still they are discussing the employability of graduates and the worth of A Levels in a world where it seems you need a qualification to take a dump and another to flush it away. And with the government on an impressive-sounding push to enrol youngsters on apprenticeships and deter sloth with ‘earn or learn’ programmes the options maybe somewhat bewildering to the average nineteen or twenty-year old school-leaver. But one thing has become a staple rite-of-passage that the human rights movement would deny nobody; where once you got a job and started to make your own way in life, now it is practically compulsory that, until you decide, you must continue to leech off your parents who opt to pay for a gap year rather than have you stinking up the family home.
And so it was that lazy Jake found himself on a long-haul flight to Australia, on an exchange programme with one of their own equally unemployable, what some have taken to calling ‘high school graduates’. (They even have ‘proms’ now, for heaven’s sake!) Jake crammed his long-legged form into the cramped seats of the Boeing 757 and slumped into the iPad coma that is the only known way of surviving such transport and prepared for the ordeal. A whole planetary day later and with a thumping headache he ran the gauntlet through Sydney international airport and out into the searing heat of early summer of New South Wales.
But the headache would not shift and even the glorious sights and non-stop hedonism of backpacking heaven did little to alleviate the dull throb. Eventually he sought advice and was directed to the oldest hospital in Australia, originally founded in 1788 and situated in Macquarie Street in the business district of Sydney since 181. The diagnosis was somewhat vague, but he was screened for all the major tropical diseases and all came up blank and he was sent away with instructions to take it easy, lay off the intoxicants and keep out of the sun.
Days went by and without the distractions of fun to keep him busy, Jake was more aware than ever of the tympani solo taking place behind his eyelids and began to seek ever desperate remedies. But none would alleviate his suffering. Then one day he heard about a Christian mission nearby, at Mercy Hospice, where the nuns were renowned for their compassion and healing powers and in particular their use of efficacious folk remedies. He decided to give them a try and pitched up to petition the Mother Superior for help. Admitted into a treatment room, one of the sisters listened carefully to his litany of symptoms and smiled benignly.
“Tea,” she said, “I will get you some tea.” She rang a little bell and the novice who had been quietly praying outside the door scurried off to prepare the brew. Jake was not highly impressed but held his tongue until the oily, steaming infusion arrived. He sniffed at the pungent aroma and looked suspiciously into the cup. “Drink” said he sister “it is a healing draft made from the fur of the koala bear.” Jake immediately assumed he was being taken for an idiot, but the nun patiently explained that much of the beneficial chemicals in the eucalyptus diet of the koala accumulated in concentrated form in the skin and nails and fur of the little somnolent animal. The fur could be combed out, rinsed then the ingredients extracted without any harm to the little bear. “It has great healing properties.”
Haha! You fell for that, Pommie?
Jake steeled himself against the smell; the eucalyptus was obvious and its tang evoked memories of childhood vapour rubs and Victory V lozenges and anyway, why would a Sister of Mercy lie to him? Instead of an exploratory sip, he took a deep gulp and immediately regretted it. His eyes bulged, his nostrils flared, but most of all his throat spasmed and he spat out a wad of matted koala fur. The nun smiled at his pantomime and waited. Jake realised his headache had disappeared. He smiled back and began to speak his gratitude but had to keep stopping as he coughed up bits of koala fur. The sister took advantage of one of these hiatuses to explain. “I’m sorry” she said “I should have warned you; the koala tea of Mercy is not strained...”