…says Lola to Charlie. “I’m not happy, Charlie,” says Lola. “Why do I feel so really, really not well?” So Charlie says “It’s those germs in your mouth.” “Germs?” says Lola. And Lauren Child, author of the Charlie and Lola books, illustrates what germs look like with a kaleidoscope of colourful splodges with childish scribbled faces against a dramatic black background. E learnt about germs that way and if Lauren Child had been writing her books today, here in the US, she would almost certainly included a reference to Purell to zap those germs. I’d never heard of Purell when I lived in the UK. I’m not sure if it’s even sold there, but in the US everyone knows what it is. Purell is a hand sanitiser. It’s the clear, alcohol based gel that clean-obsessive New Yorkers carry in their bags everywhere they go. It is pretty much a verb here. This week’s New Yorker magazine spent five pages documenting the rise of Purell from an idea by a couple called Goldie and Jerry Lippman who founded Purell’s manufacturing company, Gojo Industries in 1946. The dispensers for Purell and its competitors can be found in the library, by the post boxes in my building, by the door to the school, pretty much everywhere. Like the motion sensitive paper towel dispenser, the goal is not to touch anything, if you can help it and if you do, immediately apply Purell. I was with a native New Yorker a while back and we had been to a public building and as we walked out she said to me “you’ve got your Purell, right?” I looked confused. She whipped out a bottle and told me what it was and I said, but I use baby wipes if my hands are mucky. Not any more. I went to the chemist (drug stores, they’re everywhere too) and bought a tiny bottle for a few dollars. Just to fit in. Just to be a proper New Yorker.