I’D forgotten how bad it can be. It was as if I’d smeared a handful of chilli seeds on my eyes. All day they itched and I would have needed handcuffs to keep from rubbing them.
I rarely suffer from hay fever, but when I do it brings it all back – the long summers of suffering I experienced in my youth.
The stinging eyes, the runny nose, the sneezing and skin rashes: I got the lot, and it was horrible. I remember days when I could do no more than sit inside, a wet flannel draped across my eyes.
I may have exacerbated the condition by taking on farm work, helping to bale hay – I should have made the link – but I needed the money. Those who have never suffered underestimate the impact of hay fever.
They brush it off as a few sniffles and can’t understand the misery it brings.
My recent brush with it, on a day when many of my colleagues fell foul of it too, brought sore eyes, which I rubbed all day despite being urged not to, a tickly throat and a headache. All in all, bad enough to put you in a foul mood.
But it wasn’t anything like the hay fever of old, when it became so torturous that I’d plunge my head into a bowl of cold water and hold it there for 20 minutes.
Maybe the pollen is weaker nowadays, but when my eldest daughter gets it, she doesn’t seem to suffer so badly.
When she moans about a dry throat and minor nasal blockages, I end up regaling her Monty Python- style, with tales of how horrific it was in my day, how my nose would run like a river, my eyes puff up and reduce to slits, and how I was forced to spend days with a pillowcase over my head.
The closest my daughter has come to this level of suffering was on a country walk last year, when she groped her way along with her jumper over her head to relieve the itching. Now, at the first sign of buds bursting, she pops Piriton like there’s no tomorrow.
When you’re a teenager working full-time on spot prevention, the last thing you want is myxomatosed eyes and a wet nose.
Different remedies work for different people, with grapefruit, honey and green tea among the favourites. Wild Arctic seaweed is very effective, I read recently (and so easy to get hold of – I’m sure Asda has masses of it).
Short of spending summer in a sealed concrete box, it’s difficult to avoid succumbing to at least one of the symptoms. Just keep away from hay fields.