I am lucky enough to work for an employer that offers every member of staff a free flu shot every year at the onset of winter. Having said that, I have never taken advantage of this generosity, even though it was me who penned an article for our intranet entitled, ‘Are you a Bio-Hazard?’

I wrote the article, not to encourage people to get vaccinated, but to encourage people, whether vaccinated or not, to re-think the need to come into work when suffering from a cold or flu, or in one notable case, whooping cough, and risking sharing it with previously healthy colleagues.

We do fine, upstanding work in my office, but we are not in the business of brokering peace deals between warring nations, or saving lives with medical technology. The world will continue to turn if a few of us do not show up because we are not feeling well and we have leave allowances that enable us to do this, should the need arise. Nobody likes a sick hero in an open plan office area.

It is odd, then, that I have avoided getting a flu jab for so long to the point that I have almost become superstitious about it, given that I have not suffered from so much as a cold, let alone flu for years.

This year though, I had sudden second thoughts on the day of the flu clinic, and on the spur of the moment, decided to see if they could fit me in, despite the fact that I had not booked. Even as I sat in the queue, I couldn’t shake an odd feeling of doom, as if I was the passenger who had changed their flight at the last minute which resulted on me being aboard a plane that was headed for disaster.

The jab took seconds and all seemed well. This particular jab has four strains that it specifically protects against and I felt I had done the right thing, especially as my parents are aged and I would not want to infect them with a bug.

It was a couple of hours later that the problems started. I have no idea whether it was related to the jab or not – it seemed an odd reaction to have – or whether I did not heat my lunch enough (although it was just vegetables), but something wicked was this way coming.

I started to get a build up of gas in my stomach and that meant trouble. Apart from the occasional biblical-style hangover I have suffered in the past, I am rarely if ever sick, and I did not feel at all nauseous. That left just one exit if I was to avoid filling up like a blimp. I excused myself and went to the bathroom.

This was fine the first time, but the gas was not going anywhere. Like snowfall it kept coming, silent, soft but irreversibly building up and suddenly crushing. I went to the bathroom again

There are seven stalls in the one toilet block for our floor and so it is often possible to pay a visit and have the place to yourself, which is nice, because the partitions are made of Formica-covered MDF which is less than half an inch thick and so while it affords visual privacy, there is nothing to cushion any sound and the whole area is like a merciless echo chamber if you are unlucky enough to have any kind of ‘event’. There was one other person in the toilet, and as I walked in, I could almost feel the waves of resentment coming out from behind the door. A fellow sufferer perhaps? I decided to take a walk back to my desk and around to give them some time.

I got back two minutes later and the door was still shut. I had done all I could, and needed to get to sanctuary myself. I barricaded myself in and prayed for silent release.

It was not silent.

By the time the avalanche was over, the other person had fled. I washed my hands and took my leave, hoping that this would be the last time I would need to visit.

But whatever it was, it was just getting started. Over and over again, the gas would build up in my stomach, and I would quietly slip away from my desk to visit the toilet, long after I had nothing to produce. At one point, I comtemplated walking slowly around the office floor, shaking my trouser bottoms like the prisoners in the film, The Great Escape, who are disposing of mud from their tunnels, but the office is not that big and I am sure it would have attracted even more attention that my frequent departures were already doing.

Eventually, I took my own advice and gave up – I mean, I suppose technically I was in danger of being a bio hazard – and went home a little early. I am not sure if this has been a reaction to the jab or just a freaky coincidence, but I guess as far as the vaccination goes I will never know if it was worth it, because I will never know if I would have got flu or not this year without it. I have eaten dry toast for dinner and now sit and wait, hoping that things will calm down – it is difficult to tell when your only audience is dogs and frankly, they are not above  a little gas work themselves.

Let’s hope for an early thaw.


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