Saturday 1 January 2022

Not just any illness


I wish I had looked this pretty while sneezing like a warthog

Over Christmas, I began to feel unwell. Uh oh, I thought, I have been here before, it doesn't feel good.  Usually I shake off bugs and lurgies but now and again, I don't.  My throat started to hurt, right at the back, and so I dared it to do its worst.  Do your worst! I thought, I am stronger than you! But I wasn't, I just about got through Christmas and on Christmas night I had crazy dreams and woke up with no voice. Damn, I croaked, I was going to record a video today, and now I can't. I was beginning to feel absolutely awful.  And, the day after Boxing Day, I was to have my two oldest grandboys aged four and six, to stay for three days.  Best buck up for that I thought, have an early night and get myself in gear for two little boys who absolutely love to stay with Grandma and who have been champing at the bit to come.  It will be fine! I said to myself, ignoring all the signs that it was not really fine, and carried on.  The boys arrived, my cold developed, and for the next three days I spluttered, sneezed and blew my nose while they had the time of their lives.  I took cold remedies which did wonders and for most of the time I could pass for normal and thank goodness for that.  We went out for walks, for runs (they ran) and bought lego with their Christmas money.  We had fifteen meals a day because they like to eat, and we had late nights till 8pm watching films on the sofa.  They froze little kiddie yogurts with spoons in them to make what they called popsicles, and they woke up long before dawn to get on with another exciting day. 

George, 6, decorating a gingerbread man

I remember the thrill of being with my own beloved grandparents.  My grandad worked at Cadbury's chocolate factory in Birmingham and had pockets full of sweets and chocolates that had failed the high quality standards to be allowed out for sale.  He would bring them home for his grandchildren when they, we, were staying and as he had 24 grandchildren, that was a lot of square cream eggs and odd shaped bar sixes. Our grandmother made us chips all day long as we would eat nothing else while with her, she made the best chips in the whole world and none of us were allowed chips at home so Grandma had to do it.  And she made us sweet tea in little glass cups and saucers.  She did all this with delight because she was perfect.  And that is my role model for my two little boys here, despite my cold making me feel as if I had been run over by a freight train. There would be an end date for this stay, the boys would be collected and taken home, and I would then dig my own grave and lie in it.  Not really, but that is how I felt. 

The meds worked brilliantly.  I got away with it.  Mostly I looked a bit under the weather but even though I had moments when I thought I would have to call in the army, all went to plan and everyone had a lovely time.  When the darlings did go home, I went up to bed and let my cold out of its cage and struggled with what seemed like a life and death flu dragon.  I felt so awful but oh it was lovely to be in bed.   I think it was the flu, proper flu, because I began to go a bit potty and dream I was trying to get into a medieval village with a gang of paupers and cripples in order to have a good Christmas.  I coughed and spluttered, my eyes and nose ran, my head ached and I thought, what have I done to you, God, that I should have to have this?  Now, I was able to give in to the lurgy, and fight it out in the comfort of my bed, a battle between good and evil, between life and death, between having flu and not having flu.

Trying all night to get into here with my band of cripples and paupers

I am a healthy person.  Mostly, I shake off any twinges very quickly and I regularly rest and take time out.  I don't usually get as far as manifesting any symptoms.  As I lay in my bed though this time, a few days ago, when not trying to get into a medieval castle in my head, I remembered how we used to get the flu in the old days, and how it was just one of those things.  My step grandmother would get what she called a "bally stinking cold".  At my boarding school, I would dry my big cotton hankies on the radiators in the classrooms during lessons so I could keep on using them when I had a bally stinking cold.  It never occurred to me to do otherwise, I thought I was being extremely practical.  My mother occasionally got flu and when she did, it was bed, warmth, rest and lots of cups of tea till she felt better.  My father, my three brothers and I and anyone who was visiting (20 first cousins and 12 uncles and aunts just on my mother's side of the family, plus the old great aunts from Ireland) would go and see her and smooth her furrowed brow, bring her more hankies, and go about our business.  No one panicked, no one left food outside her door, no one gave a monkeys, and mum got better and life went on.  At school, if we became ill enough, we went to the infirmary where the wonderful Sister Francoise had a small kitchen full of little brown teapots with hand knitted cosies on, which she would use to make tea four times a day for any lucky girl that got to stay in the infirmary with her.  That was bliss, that may be where I picked up my teapot and teacosy habit. 

So back now to my sick bed here.  I am, for your information, still in it.  Day three now of giving into the demons, and I feel much better.  But these days it is not good to be ill and not good to be displaying the symptoms I had.  Headache, runny nose, cough, tiredness all sound like the current no no virus, and it is impossible to tell unless one tests for it.  And the tests are not reliable, and so we all assume the worst and go a bit mad. 

The boys just gone home, about to do battle with the life and death flu dragon, still in my lipstick.

I do not assume for a moment that you go mad, I am sure you don't, people who read my blog do not go mad - but the general accepted way to proceed is to advise the ill person to test themselves, over and over again because it must be that illness, which when at last you do test positive for it, means we rush to all the new protocols for a biohazard.  Except you are now the biohazard.  No Christmas or New Year for you matey.  Hide in that there bed and do not come out for two weeks and we will throw your food in thought the window from a safe distance and may God have mercy on your soul.  Again, I do not say you do that, but it is the kind of thing that does pass for sane and practical and that, as you can tell, does not sit well with me.  

Kind and good people suggested to me day and night that I should test myself for our new variant of this no no virus.  But I have had flu before, I know what flu is, and this is flu, I said.  Well, they said, just to be sure.  Of course they suggested it, it is the latest craze, and it frightens a good many people.  If I tested and it said Yes! I would have to stay in bed and keep away from people and everyone who knew would run a mile and wash their clothes if they walked too close to my door.  If I tested and it said No!  I would stay in bed for the same amount of time as a Yes! result, and people would go about their business and leave lucozade at my door to make me feel better.  Either way, I would stay in bed for the same amount of time and come out when I felt better.  The difference to my mind is the amount of fuss involved.  So I have not tested myself, and have thanked my kind friends who are suggesting what they think is the right thing to do, and had none of the fuss.  My flu is getting better, and no one else got it.  

It seemed to me that once I became ill, it was expected of me to not just have any old illness, I needed to have this one special illness.  All the symptoms were the same, I was told, in which case, perhaps the other illness is flu.  I don't know. But I had just the same old winter illness we have all had for years, the flu.  I thank you.

I understand that what I think may annoy the hell out of you, and I am sorry about that.  The thing is, I feel very strongly that when we are ill, we need each other and not stigma and a shut down.  If what we have is as bad as the bubonic plague, then yes all bets are off and I am with you.  I will happily throw your food in through your open window and run. In the case of bubonic plague, the bodies would be visibly piling up and no one can mistake it for anything else.  Perhaps this is not a sensible comparison, our no no virus is not the plague, and though it is horrible for anyone who suffers from it - and many do not - it is not likely to scythe you down in your tracks and kill all your family in a weekend. 

Common sense tells us that anyone who is vulnerable needs to stay away from illnesses they can catch, and common courtesy makes us respect that vulnerability.   Wild horses would not drag me to see my friends, like Marie or Claire who are compromised with chemotherapy and other difficulties, and anyone recovering from surgery should not need to worry that I will turn up shouting Flesh Wound!  I won't, until it is safe for them and they are happy to see me. 

But enough now, I am through the worst of my flu and it has not affected a single other friend or family member, and all of us have lived to another day.  

Happy new year and thank you for sticking with me, and for reading my blogs. You are wonderful!


I'm cured!

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  1. Wonderful! Agree with every word! Speedy recovery x

  2. I’m enjoying reading about you and your life as much as I can. You are so funny, interesting and needed by so many everywhere .

  3. You crack me up !

  4. You crack me up !