Biryani buddies

What do Pierce Brosnan, George Clooney, Andrew Lloyd Webber and my neighbour Gemma have in common? They have all had difficulty ordering a prawn biryani.

At least that is what Gemma reckons, because the celebs in question have all had Bell’s palsy. As the world’s greatest expert on the condition, she should know, having read every reference to it on the internet in the ten days since she woke up to find half her face had gone on strike.

To my helpful suggestion that she attempt forceful facial expressions in an effort to get the paralysed bits moving again, she replied with the perfectly one-sided smile that I have already grown used to that this step is seriously ill-advised, as it could easily lead to synkinesis, or miswiring of the nerves.

She added that I should count myself lucky that I could still say the words ‘forceful facial expressions’, which naturally led on to the biryani story; trying to cheer herself up the previous evening by ordering her favourite dish over the phone, she had found the ‘p’s and ‘b’s almost impossible to spit out.

Gemma, as should be clear by now, is taking Bell’s palsy very much in her stride – which is not to say that it is anything other than a dreadful experience, and one that she found quite terrifying in the initial stages when, like many in her position, she was convinced she had experienced a stroke.

The worst thing, she says, is having one eye taped shut at night to prevent it drying out. And taking antivirals and anti-inflammatories is no fun either. But the list of famous one-time sufferers did cheer her up, particularly when she tried to order that prawn biryani.

‘Clooney would have been okay, and Andrew Lloyd Webber could get away with slurring the end of his name,’ she said. ‘But imagine having to pronounce Pierce Brosnan? It’s almost as hard as telling people you have Bell’s palsy.’

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