GOUT is a vicious ailment. The comforting thing about this big sickness with a small name, however, is that it is not contagious.

Otherwise I would have long ago contracted it, because I hang out with veteran sufferers of this epitome of agony.

What I am about to say is based on observation only, as I have no clue how the onset of gout feels. So, indulge me some poetic licence if you will.

When I mentioned that I wanted to write about it, a friend who has been in and out of the gout trenches said I was tempting fate: “You speak about that thing [he won’t mention it by name lest it bares its fangs right there and then] it’s sure to get you, my friend.”

Which reminded me of my childhood when we were told not to speak about lightning while there was a storm in progress: “You want this house to be struck by lightning?”

I have poked endless fun at gout sufferers, but the ogre has not yet wrapped its tentacles around my limbs.

But I’d like to explore (and possibly explode) some myths around gout.

Some years ago I worked with a chap who almost every other week would be seen hobbling into the office in his sandals, proceeding at a pace that would have made the common garden snail look like Usain Bolt.

The guy would be sweating like Julius Malema after his encounter with SARS, and he would be groaning like Mahlathini on an empty stomach. Every time I saw this chap in that state, I would take off my imaginary hat and salute gout.

People who thought they knew everything about gout would smile knowingly and opine: “Too much red wine and brandy.”

But the guy was a born-again Christian and a teetotaller. Which is to say, gout gives the humble grape a bad name. Look, I’ve been worshipping Bacchus for many years yet I have never been attacked by gout.

Furthermore, my carnivorous diet is legendary, and yet I have never been at the mercy of this ailment.

Which explodes myth number two: meat consumption makes one susceptible to gout.

Dictators are, by nature, a dangerously unpredictable species. Add gout into the mix and you have apocalypse. You see, Mr Kim is not your playground dictator. He is a dictator with gout and a nuclear bomb.

Myth number three: for a long time, gout was portrayed as a very sexist ailment which only attacked men. How untrue. I do have two woman friends who genuflect at the feet of this conqueror called gout.

You see, no one can be sure what exactly causes gout. Mind you, in my circle of buddies I have a number of medicos. One of them is a sufferer.

When he is not possessed by the demons of gout, he can wax lyrical about its medical causes – something about uric acid deposits becoming concentrated around one’s joints if one eats rich foods, etc.

I never listen to him because history shows I’m impervious to this little disease, but I also don’t listen because if what the doctor was saying were true, then he wouldn’t be suffering. He would know what to do.

The uplifting thing about gout – to indulge in a bit of morbidity – is that if you approach a friend at the exact moment he is in the clutches of gout, he will oblige you with anything, as long as you bloody well leave him alone.

You want his car keys? “Take them!” Want his wallet? “Take the bloody thing and disappear,” he’ll scream. Wanna kiss his girlfriend? Okay, pushing your luck now.

But you get my drift: a person in the clutches of gout is dangerous as he is not in control of his faculties. He cannot be trusted with a car, a gun, a cup of hot coffee in his hand because he can use any of these as an outlet for his agony.

He can plough the car into the nearest ditch, or empty the magazine of his gun into his own foot, or pour hot coffee over his feet – anything that promises temporary respite from the pain at his feet.

That is why I got very worried when I heard that Kim Jong-un, the dictator of North Korea, has gone underground, and rumours are he has gout.

Dictators are, by nature, a dangerously unpredictable species. Add gout into the mix and you have apocalypse. You see, Mr Kim is not your playground dictator. He is a dictator with gout and a nuclear bomb.

To recap: Mr Kim is the chap who had his uncle Jang Song-thaek executed for committing “tremendous crimes against government” late last year.

Only someone in the throes of gout can dream up such flamboyant charges.

I wonder what accusations he is going to throw at the world as he, sweating and groaning in agony, reaches for that nuclear bomb button.

It’s only when the likes of the Supreme Leader of North Korea get attacked by gout that I take it seriously and plead to the medical fraternity to find a permanent cure for this thing.

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