Friday, July 13, 2018

Equatorial Affliction

I bet he's got 'em

If you've read much English lit, you're probably aware of 'chilblains,' a cold-weather ailment of the extremities (ears, toes, etc.) with symptoms such as redness and itching.

Long ago at a sister's wedding, I spoke to her new English mother-in-law, who had attended boarding school in the foothills of the Indian Himalayas, where it was always cold. Sherpas would meet the girls at the train, and take them up to the school. Anyway, she said it was so cold all the time in the virtually unheated buildings that everyone had these bad rashes....she couldn't remember how they were called. I said, 'chilblains?' and she perked right up, yes indeed they were chilblains!

It's winter here in Cuenca, and our unheated house gets to about 64F during the day. Lately my second toes have been red and itchy with chilblains just like folks get in Charles Dickens novels, or Jane Eyre: "Our clothing was insufficient to protect us from the severe cold: we had no boots, the snow got into our shoes and melted there: our ungloved hands became numbed and covered with chilblains, as were our feet: I remember well the distracting irritation I endured from this cause every evening, when my feet inflamed; and the torture of thrusting the swelled, raw, and stiff toes into my shoes in the morning." I don't have chilblains that bad, but will be more attentive to keeping my feet warm. I've been in the habit of getting up, putting on boxer shorts and heading to the kitchen for coffee, not getting dressed for at least an hour or so. I hope that adding thick socks to that morning outfit will make for happier toes.