2:00pm Thursday 27th October 2011
It’s Saturday – and my husband’s second day in bed with a cold.
Yes, it’s a bit early in the season of mists and upper respiratory tract infections to succumb, I know, but the crumpled tissues on the bedroom carpet and the trail of Benylin on the bedside table bear witness. In this bed lies a hot, damp, very efficient incubator of the incurable cold virus.
Florence Nightingale would be in her element. Even Jo Brand could probably summon up a matronly pat on the quilt and a semi-sympathetic smile. But, as has been well documented here in earlier winters, I not only don’t do tea and sympathy very well. I am practically phobic about colds.
There is little to recommend them. At a stretch, you could say they offer the possibility of a day or two off work, and even the chance to shed a couple of pounds as you lose the ability to swallow solids and instead extract your five-a-day from four doses of Lemsip and a large glass of medicinal brandy. (Hmm, note to self – write to Boots to see if they realise they’re missing a good marketing trick there.) But for the rest, colds suck. Throat sweets, cough sweets, Fishermen’s Friends, the choice is enormous, and you walk around chewing the things, convinced that the tickle that started in your tonsils yesterday couldn’t possibly lay you out flat by tomorrow. But that’s because you don’t remember how bad colds can be. Between last winter and this, your mind has been distracted by quantitative easing and royal weddings and the introduction of re-sealable baked bean tubs, and the pain and horror of nose and throat infection has slipped your busy mind.
But as the tickle gives way to the sort of pain you unreasonably associate with swallowing broken glass – come on, neither of us has ever actually done that, have we? – it all comes flooding back, down through your sinuses, into your lungs, that phleg-my, sneezy horror that is this year’s first common cold.
I do, in the circumstances, what any self-preserving person would do – leave the marital bed at first light and plan only to return if and when the cries for help become impossible to ignore.
However, I’ve forgotten one thing. This morning, Wales get their chance to thrash France in the rugby semi-final and possibly – and why not? – get their hands on the World Cup. Now, you could write what I know about rugby on the back of a red card, and still have room for the lyrics of the Welsh national anthem (if you removed all the double letters), but I am Welsh, and I like to feel like a winner. So, what could be better than lying on the sofa with an unlimited supply of tea and bonhomie? I settle down, and the anthems strike up, and I realise I’m missing something. Damn. It’s my mobile rugby rules consultant. That’s a bit tricky. This isn’t going to be much good if I can’t shout with vicarious delight at the right bits.
It’s no use. I pour a cup of tea, and take it up to him.
“You’re missing the rugby,” I say to him, getting as near as I dare.
The quilt doesn’t respond at all.
“The game has started,” I say. Nothing.
I go back downstairs and stare at the screen. I’m sort of getting the gist of it from the studio chat and the fact that Wales are soon three points up, which must be good. Then there’s a mass of thighs and shorts and a minute later Wales have lost their captain and as far as I can see he’s not coming back.
I grab another tea, and the living room door opens. A man with a clammy brow and goosepimples on his legs stands there shivering. Then he sneezes.
“Anything happened yet?” he croaks, squinting at the screen.
I shake my head.
“No, all very dull,” I say, holding my palm over my tea and taking it back to the chair nearest the telly. And farthest away from him.
“You go on back to bed and have a sleep. I don’t think you’re going to miss anything here.”
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