Wednesday, December 23, 2009

gone, understanding, homeopathy

Posted by PicasaNearly all the snow has melted. What is left are awkward mounds of ice on footpaths, which in the sleet falling at the moment, seem to be designed to throw the unwary on to the ground in undignified heaps, limbs spread in all directions. The snow was lovely while it was bright and crisp and even, and now - well, since we are looking for beautiful things - it is a challenge.
From the shelf I take down The Arctic Fox a slim book of poems by Marianne Moore. It is published by Faber and Faber in a bold, yellow jacket with blue rules, a colour and style fashionable in the Sixties. The first poem in the book is a short one entitled O to Be a Dragon. It goes:
"If I, like Solomon,...
could have my wish -
my wish ... O to be a dragon,
a symbol of the power of Heaven -of silkworm
size or immense; at times invisible.
Felicitous phenomenon."
Much of the page is blank leaving plenty of space for the Corporation of London Libraries to plant its circular stamp in the middle of the white space. For at one time, it seems, it is to that organisation that the book belonged. Pasted on the page facing the inside back cover, meanwhile, is an unused form testifying to a manifest lack of interest in Marianne Moore among the libraries' patrons. Judging by the handwriting, in which the price is penciled on the inside front cover, I must have bought it from Hall's bookshop, but there is no indication of how it progressed from London to Tunbridge Wells. A note to the poem at the back of the book suggests that marauding librarians and indifferent clients are, in the end, of little account . "Solomon's wish," it says: "An understanding heart." Kings 3: 9." I'll second that.
A 30C homeopathic preparation is, according to Ben Goldacre author of the fad-bashing best seller Bad Science, a dilution in the order of one in 1,000,000,000, 000, 000, 000, 000,000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000. (I think I've copied that right). Not everyone believes, like Goldacre, that homeopathy is based on unsound principles, though you can see why some, myself included, are sceptical. A couple of days ago, I begin to feel the symptoms of a cold, which, in my experience, are invariably followed by a deep and hacking cough. To combat these, Heidi provides me with three minuscule pills, which I must allow to melt under my tongue at intervals of two and a half hours. They have been supplied for just such an occasion by some homeopathic friends in Germany. The dilution ratio is reassuring, because I note that they are derived from Aconite, which I know to be, in more than miniscule portions, a sure and deadly poison. While still doubtful about how so small a dose of anything can affect the human body and its ailments, I have to report three days later, that the cold has gone, and no cough has materialised. But who knows? I remember years ago a male Harley Street specialist saying, with conversation-stopping finality, at a dinner party in response to a claim from me about a cold prevention procedure fashionable at the time: " I took it too and I didn't get pregnant."


Roderick Robinson said...

The question is: would it have disappeared anyway? Ben Goldacre is a Guardian columnist and one of my heroes. Not so much for his attacks on homeopathy but on rather more insidious potions and practices which turn out to be based on Bad Science, the name of his column. One of his more hilarious devastations targeted a length of gold-plated cable (sold at a handsome price) intended to connect a hi-fi to the power socket. Reductions in interference were claimed and I rather think he contrived to put the company out of business.

Roderick Robinson said...

Straight-driven woodscrews. Racondite allusions. Continuous power. Unbroken broadband. Cat-poo-less borders. Boggle-free bearnaise. Self-cleaning sables. Myth-riddled churches. Fly silent mornings. Ale from the cask and brewing adjacent. Wall-to-wall Cosi. Unending Brendel. Clarified Proust. An index for Yoolie. Masterpiece photos.Perfume from mangroves. Machine shining steel. A high-revving two-stroke. Murdoch-free broadcasts. Snowy crunch footprints. Fat taste from Meursault. Snow-covered Prague... well, you get the idea. I pray you are supported by technology in 2010

Unknown said...

You're right and Ben Godacre is right. He's very good on the placebo effect.
Thank you for allowing me to host your wishes. You deserve to have them granted.

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