I have a bite on my foot, about an inch back from the big toe, right over the bone. Two Sundays ago I was wearing sandals and walking over recently cut grass; when my foot started to itch beneath a sandal strap I assumed a blade of grass had got inside and the end had dug in. When I had a chance to inspect it, there was a perfectly round little red mound, and a perfectly round blob of blood on top of it. Probably not grass, I thought.
Some little six legged brute must have got in and taken the chance to inject its poison into my metatarsals because it's spread. There is now a mound the size of a typical mosquito bite; a bruised area around it, about the size of a 10p piece, covered by a thin ridge of hardened skin; and a reddened area beyond that, about the size of a 50p piece. Photos can be provided if enough people ask.
You can tell this is serious, because last night I put the American Cream on it.
The American Cream, according to the tube, is Hydrocortisone Cream USP 0.5%. I like American pharmaceuticals. I like the way it doesn't try to sweettalk you into buying New Improved HealySkin(tm) Lotion. It's quite open about the fact that you are about to rub chemicals into your epidermis. A couple of years ago I was in Boston for Worldcon, and I slightly overdid the exploring, History Trail etc., on foot, on a warm, humid day. I got a small but very intense heat rash, so I went into a chemist on Huntingdon Avenue, near the YMCA where I was staying. I bought the American Cream, applied it, and the rash was gone the next day.
Since then the cream has been carefully preserved, and only brought out for really serious occasions.
Likewise the American Pills that I bought at the same establishment, when I pulled my back. These do have a name - Aleve. Small, blue tablets (hmm ...) in a little triangular plastic bottle that take your pain, screw it up into a little ball and toss it away with contempt. Also for serious occasions. For normal aches and pains I just make do with Tesco brand paracetemol.
And the American Earplugs. I bought these on a whim, unlike the other items, but I had perceived the need because the Y wasn't air conditioned, I had to sleep with the window open, and the room backed onto the air conditioning equipment of a big building belonging to Northeastern University. I've used earplugs before but those were just little foam plugs that simply don't work. These, though, are little waxy balls that stop up your ear hermetically. Nothing gets in or out. Perfect for sleeping in the Y; also perfect for sleeping on the flight back, for recent summery mornings when the bloody birds start cheeping at 5a.m. right outside your window, and for when my former neighbour from hell, the double glazing salesman, was screaming his idiosyncratic terms of endearment ("you f---ing c--t, you f---ing f---ing c--t") at his partner at 3 in the morning.
I was, possibly, a little rude about Americans a couple of days ago. So let me apologise, and just say there are many more plus points to the US of A.