It wasn’t me. It was the small parasite in my brain.
Is that the best ever excuse for a decadent spree? A friend of mine (an eagle eyed David Price) spotted a science story on the Telegraph website. Parasites, scientists tell us, are controlling our brains*. From the nasty little tropical fungus Ophiocordyceps (scourge of leaf cutter ants) to the more worryingly common influenza virus, these smart alec ne’er do wells recognise that the brain is where it’s at. No point in infecting say, a thumb or your elbow, because in the grand scheme of things, both are slim pickings for a parasite and control resides elsewhere. As Joanne Webster, professor of parasite epidemiology at Imperial College London, explains; “because it <the brain> shelters them from the full fury of the immune system”. But, she adds, “it also gives them direct access to the machinery to alter the host’s behaviour”.
Parking the serious side of this for a moment, lets play loose and fast with the limited facts on offer, safe in the knowledge that its a developing area of study, journalists have unenviable reputations for ‘weak’ science reporting and claims therefore, will be difficult to debunk. There are simply so many opportunities inherent in this excuse that it may even put an end to the tired old system of ‘brownie points’. After all, there’s nothing like divorcing yourself from reality and reaping huge rewards (ask any banker)**.
Freed of the power of free will, I may now succumb to those cravings for a ‘King of the Mercia’. I could book that trip of a lifetime to cycle and sea kayak around the Lofoten Islands (or at least, this year’s trip of a lifetime if the parasite gets its way). Or I can blow my daughter’s inheritance on a Chianti fuelled binge around the Giro D’Italia, staying in all the best places, swanning around in a chauffeur driven VW split screen and returning on the Orient Express. ‘It really, really wasn’t me darling, it was the parasite controlling my brain in order to propagate’.
Now when shall I start?
From this point forward I can no longer be responsible for content on this website. It’s the parasite you see. Excellent Lofoten Islands image (top) via Tatra photography
*Despite my mickey taking, this a pretty fascinating and faintly worrying area.
**Why not? A bit of bike indulgence is a lot more benign than creating ludicrous financial mechanisms and milking the system.
***Several bikes and a well thumbed copy of the Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy.