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Blood Letting in Normandy

The stand- out memory of this week has to be the Leeches. 5 of us, lined up with different appendages exposed, waiting for the leech to be placed. We were all a little pale in anticipation, nervous giggles as the leeches sniffed around our arm or legs, looking for the tastiest vein – the vitiated blood that it wanted to consume. These were leeches (Hirudo medicinalis), bred in a lab in Wales, specifically to be used in medicinal blood letting – don’t try this at home kids – unless you are sure you have the correct leech and that it is “clean”. We were given scant information before the leeches were placed upon us – except that once they are on, they have to stay on, until they have gorged enough blood – they then unhook themselves from your vein and roll off like a great big fat piggy of a black pudding. Once the leeches were on, we all watched a slide show, offering us the information that um – well, maybe we should have known before we started! Chances of bacterial infection etc etc !

The first chomp into my arm stung and hurt a little – I would liken it to the sting of 10 nettles – not pleasant, but not unbearable by any stretch. After 5 mins or so, mine bit deeper and harder, I had been told to expect if to be on from 45 mins to and hour and a half. At this point I was worrying that if it bit deeper every 5 minutes for the next hour or so, I might just “throw a whitey” – in front of my classmates – humiliation – but oh that chomping!

After 10 minutes or so, mine was growing before my eyes – it was throbbing, pulsating and ballooning! I looked at the victims sitting next to me – theirs were somewhat more mellow and I started to worry that mine was a little psychotic! After 28 minutes exactly, mine unceremoniously unhooked, spurted blood from my vein and I had to catch him –  as he was heading for the floor and I could sense an impending blood bath – urghh  exploding leech!

The leech was now in a kidney dish and Andrew sprinkled some turmeric on his head to induce vomiting (charming) – we left enough blood inside the little fellow to make his hard work worthwhile. My blood was then analysed – I am still trying to make sense of the analysis so might come back to that at some point. The other leeches were on their victims for another hour after mine had come off – I heard a few theories as to why mine was so quick – all of which do not exactly sound complimentary when put into type, so I will leave that where it is!

On day 2 of the retreat, my tongue was white and furry, I had a banging headache for 3 days – but I honestly came home feeling like new. I thank the leech for removing that poison from my veins and taking it out of circulation.

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