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Lurgi Strikes Alan

In 1954, according to contemporary accounts authored by Spike Milligna and Eric Sykes, Great Britain suffered from its first and greatest epidemic of the lurgi, the most dreadful malady known to mankind. Symptoms include knee trembling and an uncontrollable urge to cry 'Yack-a-boo!' at crucial moments.

As the epidemic took its fearsome toll, It became abundantly clear that nobody who played a brass-band instrument ever caught the lurgi, thus clearing the way for Count Jim "Thighs" Moriarty and the Honourable Hercules Grytpype-Thynne to dispose of their hoarded instruments at a huge profit.

Soon Britain was safe again, and the Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band had so many new members that they had to hire an extra forty two halls for the annual championship play off with the Grimethorpe Colliery Band. Brighouse and Rastrick won by three goals and a minor key touchdown, though some people claim that their use of the double reverse sousaphone manoeuvre in the closing minutes of the second half gave them an unfair advantage.

The dreaded lurgi soon spread throughout the English speaking world, except for America of course, where it seemed to manifest as the much less dreaded cooties. It became quite common for people to ring the office and explain that they wouldn't be coming in today because they had the lurgi. Milligna and Sykes now found themselves in very distinguished company. Along with Shakespeare and Lewis Carroll (with both of whom they had a lot in common), they had invented a new word which quickly became part of common usage.

In August 2012, lurgi struck me down. I was marooned in Auckland at the time and bereft of brass instruments. Not a trombone was to be had, scarcely a trumpet. Oh goodness me, there was nothing for it – the dread disease would have to run its full course.

It began on the Monday morning. I awoke with a sore throat and a fever. I don't know about you, but when I have a fever my skin becomes very sensitive. The slightest touch is almost, but not quite, horribly painful. My legs are particularly prone to this nasty sensation and pulling a pair of trousers over them is decidedly unpleasant. The hairs curl and wriggle excruciatingly under the press of the fabric. I began to contemplate the advantages of trouserless teaching. Would my students be able to cope? Reluctantly, I decided not to put it to the test. They'd already be nervous about all the high-powered things they'd have to study. I could see no point in reinforcing that inferiority complex by appearing before them with naked legs. And so, covered in trousers, I made my sick and shaking way to the classroom for my first day of torture.

"I have the lurgi," I explained to my students. "And by the end of the week you too will probably have the lurgi. But in between those two events I will endeavour to teach you all I know about computers. You will be pleased to hear that I have a degree in chemistry, and I am therefore fully qualified to teach computer courses."

The students were duly sympathetic to my plight. I coughed and sneezed my way through the day, explicating esoterica as I went. String quartets, those saccharine structures, slid through my nasal passages and slithered down my throat which itself was getting more painful by the minute as the catgut and horsehair tangled around my tonsils. My leg lagging became progressively more irritating and I could feel my knees turning blue. By the end of the day I had lost my voice and I had spots before my ankles.

" ", I said to the class when it was time to go home.

"Bye, bye. See you tomorrow. I hope you soon feel better," said the students.

" ", I replied and made my way back to the hotel where I collapsed into bed and, pining for a flugelhorn, fell asleep.

As the week progressed, so did my lurgi. Entire orchestras died unpleasant mucoid deaths as they smothered in the amazonian flow of a foul and slimy liquid that leaked constantly from my nose and throat. I changed my surname by deed poll to Phlegming because it seemed as if I was spending all my time doing exactly that. But at least I was being green – and that's about as politically correct as you can get in this best of all possible worlds!

Feeble trumpeters had little success in keeping the holocaust at bay. Lurgi enveloped my classroom. "Yack-a-boo! Yack-a-boo!" Students writhed in intellectual agony. Kneecaps succumbed to the esoterica of the linux command line.

" ", I explained.

"So lucid!," exclaimed my students. "Such elegance of expression."

Somewhere the haunting sound of phantom cornets played. Nothing else could save me from ignominious tragedy. Early to bed and early to rise showed no signs whatsoever of making me healthy, wealthy or wise. All I got was lots of sleep and a deep appreciation of raucous music.

Somehow the terrible week dragged its way to a conclusion and eventually it was time to go home. First step – get a taxi to the airport.

" ", I said to the taxi driver.

"?", he replied.

I quickly acquired a euphonium from the Black Dyke Mills Band, and with it I honked the opening bars of "Leaving on a Jet Plane". Peter, Paul and Mary, who happened to be passing, sang harmony and strummed their trombones. The lurgi relief was immediate. My kneecaps settled down to a normal rate of spin and my deep throat ache eased into a shallow throbbing.

"!", said the taxi driver. "Yack-a-boo!"

Oh dear...

Checking in at the airport was a trivial exercise. It's all done automatically by magic machines these days; no cut throat work is required at all. But my double bell euphonium caused some consternation when I took it through security.

"It's essential medical equipment," I croaked. "I have a prescription signed by the famous, not to say infamous, Doctor Eccles himself."

"Infamous?" said the security man.

"I told you not to say infamous!"

"You can't take that thing on an aeroplane," said the security man. "It's far too sharp."

"Will it be safe enough if I promise only to play it flat?"

Robin welcomed me home with open sackbuts. The cats put their paws in their ears.

"That noise is far too horny," said Harpo. "I might be forced to throw a bucket of water over you."

"Oompah, oompah, stick it up your joompah," I replied.

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