Everyone with hayfever has a common enemy, and our enemy's name is pollen
Red eyes. Leaky noses. Sneezing. Endless, bloody sneezing. It can only mean one thing.
Yes, it's summertime, the fabled two weeks of the British calendar in which all things are permitted: shirtless drinking, randy threesomes in private hedgerows, cans upon cans upon cans upon cans, and street fighting. We're up to our nuts in sunburn and having barbecues for breakfast every single day. Rule Britannia! Britannia catches rays!
But for a decent chunk of the population, at summertime, the living is not easy. Around one in five people suffer with hayfever. That's about 13 million Brits, all spluttering into their overloaded tissues, bleary-eyed, apologising for their appearance as they dab politely at their nostrils and try not to claw the screaming-red eyeballs from their sockets.
At the very least we know we're not alone, but that is small comfort when you've just sneezed for the 13th time in a row, almost covering a passing parent and child in a light coating of sputum, who probably would have welcomed the cooling mist on this, the hottest of hot days.
Hayfever can render us useless, blocking our noses, irritating our eyes, robbing us of our sight and ability to process thought, making us only semi-fit to oversee top-flight football matches - a good joke, you'll agree.
In short, hayfever is like having sandpaper shoved up your nose and into your brain, except less fun.
It's a special kind of hell, and really makes you wonder what you did in a past life to condemn your current form to this fate. Had you punched a dog for stealing? Maybe you pushed a man, lustful for your wife Matilda, into the path of a runaway horse. Did you wank upon the Lord's day, not only once, not twice, but thrice, and did therefore draw the Almighty's ire?
Whatever we did, we're paying for it now, with snot, spit and tears, and a hefty debt to the Kleenex people. Whatever our past transgressions were, we are but the victims now. The villain has a name, and it's name is pollen. Curse it, venomously.
Pollen is our eternal nemesis. Every year, when summer moves into autumn and the sneezing subsides, we think we've seen the last of pollen, and dump it in the backs of our minds. Then, like clockwork, just as we start to get excited about the prospect of sitting in the sunshine for more than two minutes, it hits us, like an 18-wheeler carrying a full load of Mama Nature's Homemade Fuck You.
It starts with the tingle in your nose, and immediately you know what's about to go down. The first sneeze comes: "ACHOO - Oh goodness, excuse me." The second: "ACHOO - Crikey, that was a big one." The third: "ACHOO - Right, fuck this, shitlords. I'm going inside."
The eyes water, the nose runs, and the sneezing never lets up. We retreat indoors, if indoors is available to us; every sufferer will know that pang of fear when they realise they're far from refuge, with only a single tissue to see them through the day. Heaven help you if you forgot to take your tablets.
Pollen is a cunning enemy. It's everywhere, yet strikes by stealth, when you're at your most vulnerable and least prepared. It has a thuggish streak, hanging around the same street corners, waiting to catch you on your way to work and give your sinuses a good battering.
But pollen doesn't want your lunch money. Pollen is a sadist. It lives to make us suffer, to force us back inside when we should be out enjoying God's green earth at its most beautiful, the ugly little shit. Yeah sure, it helps flowers to not go extinct and gives the bees something to do, but it fucks up my summer and I'm not happy about it.
What can we do? Well, nothing really. That shit is everywhere, and there's still too much polio around for scientists to faff about trying to eradicate hayfever just so I don't have to take a stupid tablet every day. All we can do is load up on antihistamines, grit our teeth, and go out to enjoy the sunshine. After all, it's a beautiful day.
Or so I'm told. Can't see shit through these puffy eyes.
Feature image: Marco Raaphorst
Unfiltered with James O'Brien
This week: Lord Alf Dubs on escaping the Nazis and fighting for refugees
The Unfiltered back catalogue is FREE to listen to. Fascinating interviews with Gary Lineker, Russell Brand, Lily Allen, Eric Cantona, Alastair Campbell, Jon Ronson, Nick Clegg and more.