The Last Person on Earth, in Birmingham
Woke to another beautiful, misty morning.
Went out - literally every tree, bush, flower, leaf, festooned with shining spider lines. This is a detail of the yukka plants, coming into flower.
Walked into town to post two advent parcels to our kids, and halfway there realized I didn't have a mask - Mike came in the car and rescued me, wouldn't have made it in time otherwise. Walked in again this afternoon to return a book to the library - Meu Pé de Laranja Lima, by José Mauro de Vasconcelos - an unbearably sad autobiographical account of his childhood in Rio state, translated into English as My Sweet Orange Tree - but beautifully written; also a film, apparently. Cecílio couldn't believe I hadn't read it; I think the Portuguese enjoy sadness more than I do...
Mike still not at all well, has spent the day mostly lying down, and in bed again at the moment.
- seeing a small owl on a post as I walked home at dusk
- people being grateful for the photos I've printed off for them
- having got to a good age without any of the diseases in the chapter I've just reread, below
The Body, ch 20 - When Things Go Wrong: Diseases, p379-80
Smallpox is almost certainly the most devastating disease in the history of mankind… The death toll in the twentieth century alone is thought to have been around 500 million (Covid is currently at 1.34 million, and even that is debatable as to whether all actually died of Covid)…
In 1978, at the University of Birmingham, a medical photographer named Janet Parker went home from work early one afternoon in late summer complaining of a blinding headache. Soon she was very ill indeed - fevered, delirious and covered in pustules. She had contracted smallpox via an air duct from a lab one floor below her office. There, a virologist named Henry Bedson had been studying one of the last smallpox samples on Earth still allowed for research... Poor Janet Parker died about two weeks after being exposed and in so doing became the last person on Earth to be killed by smallpox... When Bedson learned that smallpox had escaped from his lab and killed an innocent person, he went out to his garden shed and committed suicide, so in a sense he was smallpox's last victim.