It may come as little or no surprise that there are a number of episodes in the lives of the Fourth Floor characters that are based in some way on my life. To write something completely divorced from my own experience would be impossible and in characterising the cast I have drawn upon elements of my own personality. I am now or have been in some small way each one of the Fourth Floor characters (even Amy — especially Amy) and in their hopes and fears and petty dislikes you will find glimpses of my own. The strip is not, however, a journal comic nor is it a simple chronicling of the events of my life. That said, every now and again something happens to me that is so strange or extraordinary that I have to write it into the strip.

Today’s humble offering presents just such a scenario. My name is David and I have had a hernia. Many people I tell this secret to do not know what one is, so for the benefit of those not in the know a hernia is when part of the intestine tries to escape the body by pushing up against the wall of the groin in an unsightly protrusion. When the doctor puts his hands down your pants and asks you to cough, that’s what he’s testing for. Either that or he’s not really a doctor and you should probably seek medical advice elsewhere.

Mine was exceptionally large and when it first appeared (presumably following a visit from the hernia goblins) I had no idea what it was. My mind did not immediately jump to ‘hernia’ because, well, hernias are for old people right? You’ve got to be in your forties at least. Sure, they could technically happen to anyone but if you’re a middle-aged man or a pregnant woman — and I am neither — you are more likely to get one. So I did nothing for about eight months. Then I was listening to Radio 4 with my father whilst he was picking me up from work and they were doing a programme about hernias. I listened to the description of what a hernia is, where it shows up, how it behaves, the horrible things that can go wrong with them and I, naturally, began to diagnose myself with the affliction. Even then, no alarm bells. My friends will confirm that I am something of a hypochondriac. As soon as I learn enough about any disease I become convinced I have it. I once suffered from all but one of the symptoms of a brain tumour and, thanks to the BBC’s health website, thought I had cancer. Needless to say, I did not have cancer. I listened to another Radio 4 show about Alzheimer’s. I’m kinda forgetful. I write shit on my hands and my arms. Some day’s it’s fucking Memento. I don’t have Alzheimer’s.

I went to my GP. He confirmed that I did not have cancer, I did not have Alzheimer’s, that lump on my arm was probably nothing and yes I did have a hernia. A hernia which could — potentially — strangulate, killing me in the process. What fun. Knowing this, England’s finest medical minds sprung into action and just one short agonising year later I had surgery to correct the problem, just before the comic came back from the dead in fact.

I say ‘agonising’ because the hernia itself grew in size and strength over the nearly two years we were together and shortly after my trip to the GP it started hurting. Permanently. A persistent dull ache similar (I can only imagine) to period cramps.

Then there were the sharp bursts. Imagine, if you will, that every time you coughed or sneezed someone kicked you in the groin from the inside. That’s what I had to put up with. And now, so does Jack.