Awoke early this morning and spent a miserable couple of hours tossing and turning whilst hoping that the severe headache that had me in its grip would just GO AWAY.


In the end it didn't which was most unsatisfactory. I had to get up and go in search of painkillers. Luckily I didn't have to go very far - they were in the kitchen. This is a marked improvement on the occasion when, whilst still living in Astra House, I had to actually get up at 3.30am, get dressed and stagger up Preston Street and along Western Road and into actual Hove before I found a twenty four hour store where I could buy some piss weak generic painkillers (not even something with added codeine oomph). I learnt a valuable lesson that night; always keep painkillers in the house.

You'd have thought that by now we'd have evolved out of tension headaches which are no good to man nor beast. I mean, from an evolutionary point of view they're a terrible burden...
Thugg the Caveman sleeps in a draft and as a result gets a neck ache the tension of which translates into a full blown behind-the-eyeballs throbber. However, the problem is that he's on sabre-tooth tiger hunting duty today and back in prehistoric times you couldn't call in sick. There were no phones, for a start.

So he drags himself out of the cave and goes along the path to the pharmacy-witch who gives him a willow infusion. Unfortunately it doesn't seem to shift the pain and, given that ibuprofen won't be invented for tens of thousands of years he's just going to have to grimace and bear it. So he joins the group standing nervously by the big tree slapping each other on the back, bantering and asking each other if they saw the big fight last night. Thugg doesn't know what they're talking about as he doesn't get Sky (the mouth of his cave points downwards) but apparently there was a big ding dong between Chief Grillogg and up and coming young buck Drigg up on the ridge the previous evening. Moonlit and everything.

Thugg doesn't like fighting and anyway, this headache is making it difficult for him to see properly, let alone engage in mindless small-grunt. He's starting to see things and suspects that the headache is turning into a full blown migraine or "Invisible-Stone-Axe-Buried-In-Skull" as his tribe knows the condition.

Five minutes ago he could have sworn he saw a Boeing 747 fly past, which is highly unlikely as Boeing 747s won't be invented until round about the same time as ibuprofen. Perhaps it was a big bird, he thinks, that bloody eagle that carried off Footwatcher the other month.

But staring at the sky becomes too bright for him so he looks at the ground instead.

"Cheer up, it may never happen!" 
Thugg feels a blow to his shoulder and peers up to see Guntt, the tribal wiseboy grinning foolishly at him. He murmurs incomprehensibly back. He just wants to be left alone and to spend the day under his bearskin quilt until this terrible headache goes away.

What a bunch of shitheads the rest of the tribe are, he muses.

They set off towards the veldt. Well they call it a veldt. To be brutally honest it's more of a common. Even the tigers seem embarrassed to stalk across it. Thugg is having a bad day. He stubs his toe on a rock, falls into the stream and then accidentally whacks Hugg over the head with the shaft of his spear and receives a punch in the face for his trouble. That really doesn't help Thugg's mood.

Thugg thinks it would be nice to have someone to blame for all this misfortune and invents God. Thanks, God, you stupid bastard. Why have you got it in for me? If it wasn't for me you wouldn't exist, I only invented you a minute ago.

Thugg trips and falls down a hill, sliding through the scree and ending up in heap at the bottom of the hill. He is beginning to suspect that his arm is now broken. What a brilliant day, he thinks, inventing sarcasm. At the top of the hill the rest of the tribe are laughing at him, but their hoots of derision turn into chimpanzee shrieks of fear. He turns to see a tiger bearing down upon him.
Is Thugg dead? Tune into the next exciting installment.

However, there's a very important point here. Tension headaches are definitely, absolutely and without a shadow of a doubt, very very bad for you. There are absolutely no circumstances under which they could be advantageous. So I don't understand why it is that they haven't been selected out, As I discussed only the other day, evolution is a straightforward, by the numbers process - so why isn't it working here? After all headaches are also famous for preventing sex.

Either headaches are an unavoidable side effect of intelligence that used to be a lot worse (and this is as good as it gets) or there's something else going on. Something slightly sinister.  Maybe headaches are something new, something that has arisen in recent years and as such haven't had time to be addressed by numbers and time. Perhaps an unavoidable side effect not of intelligence but of modern living?

The most significant change over the past couple of hundred years is the exponential human population explosion. We have to face facts - there are now simply too many people. If we reduced the planetary population to a tenth of its current level (over the course of a couple of generations - I'm not proposing a cull) civilisation would still be perfectly sustainable and yet we almost certainly wouldn't have to worry about environmental issues or even the global financial crisis.

Perhaps tension headaches are a side effect of this overpopulation. Interference from too many other brains in the immediate vicinity. Neural activity is electrical in nature and electrical currents generate fields. Put enough brains in one room and it's the mental equivalent of trying to read a book when you're surrounded by a crowd of people shouting.

Hermits don't get headaches.

stone headache picture from geograph.org.uk by Chris Downer

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