Legend has it that the Greek hero Hercules was given a poisoned shirt by his wife — these Greek women, what are they like?  ‘Furies’ hardly begins to describe them.  Harpies, maybe.

When Hercules put the shirt on, the venom began to cook him alive, and to escape the unbearable pain, he uprooted several trees to build a funeral pyre (as one does) and threw himself on it.

Thank goodness we have better methods of dealing with modern poisons when they attack us nowadays.  And more efficient washing machines, not to mention fireproof garments.  I can just see you checking your labels right now.

Recent studies have found that a good laugh can shore up our immune systems.  One dispirited comedian — there are such people — told millions of TV viewers in India, “I have a vaccination joke, but most of you won’t get it.”  Most of the audience didn’t get it.  You can see why he was dispirited.  During lockdown, jokes were few and far between.  Touching somebody with a bargepole was okay, but for months nobody walked into a bar.  Or said “Knock-knock” at anyone’s door.

Plodding is practical, if you’re heading in the right direction, but inspired guesses help as well, when it comes to discovering scientific truths.  Look at Michael Ventris, who cracked the code of an ancient Cretan tablet after 50 years, by guessing that some of the symbols were locations on Crete.  Perhaps if he’d just bought a decent map in the first place…

And it was lucky that Isaac Newton was sitting under an apple tree when a pippin fell on his head, rather than, say, under an evergreen laurel (a hardy tree) in which case we might still be waiting for gravity to come along, and then where would air travel be?  Still up in the air, probably.

Likewise, Archimedes.  What if he had taken showers and never baths?  The Eureka exclamation might have been a vexed question: “Where’s that soap?”  Eureka might have still been appropriate once he stood on it; or perhaps some other word.

I’m not a great fan of astrology, but I can’t help noticing that on occasion its predictions come true: “Nothing will happen to you this week.”  Uncanny.  I only wish my EuroMillions numbers were more amenable to the laws of guessing (sometimes called statistics.)  I must have tried almost every combination by now, so I shouldn’t have much longer to wait, and then — bingo!

To return to where we began, a thought has just occurred to me regarding Hercules.  The woollen vest I wore to school in winter in Scotland was so unbearably itchy that it wore out my brain’s ability to think, or that was my excuse.

Perhaps something similar caused Hercules to throw himself on the fire, or pyre, when he put on that burning shirt.  He ought to have checked the label first.  Although when it comes to vaccines, I wouldn’t be so fastidious.  I never judge a book by its cover, a horse by its teeth, Greeks bearing gifts, or a vaccine by its label.  Just give me whatever you have in that phial, nurse!