Down and Out

I do apologise for sudden air silence, but I’ve been laid low by what I think must be a bug this week. It began shortly after the first two cases of swine ‘flu were identified in the university, an event which triggered a positive storm of ‘information reports’ from some clearly over-excited person in the Old Schools. There was the strangest disconnect in the emails, which told us how we were supposed to represent the occurrence to the world at large and who should be allowed to know, and who should just stay home and not risk it out in the mean cloisters, and that we were to Carry On As Normal in the face of the huge influx of visitors for the university open day season, which starts in a few weeks’ time. It was as if there were two stories circulating with the virus, one that presented a reassuring façade, and a darker, unspeakable truth that it masked. So when I began to feel poorly shortly after receiving all of this, it struck me as not implausible that I had caught the ‘flu through some odd mix of hypnotic suggestion and virtual contact. But hypochondriac as I am, I couldn’t quite convince myself of such a possibility.

Anyhow, my prime symptom was a most peculiar one. I had a pain in my head; not a headache, although it became that over time, but to begin with, a place on my skull, just above my left ear, that was extremely tender to the touch. If someone had clubbed me over the head, it would have explained it perfectly. In fact, at first, I wondered whether my husband had pulled an old trick of his. Sometimes in the night, after having lain asleep with his arms above his head, he’ll bring them down and catch me a cracking blow with his elbow. But the consequence of this is usually that I am extremely annoyed and wide awake at three in the morning, with no long lasting effects. I emailed the college nurse who suggested that I had an infection in a hair follicle, which was a pretty good guess but unlikely again as there was nothing at all to see on my head. My husband, thinking along the same lines as me had guiltily checked me over for bruises. Anyway, by now the rest of my head was aching in sympathy, and my throat was sore and I felt without appetite and about a billion years old, so I took to my bed to try and sleep it off. Two days have passed and I am feeling generally better, although the sore patch is there still, but not as painful as it was. My own best guess is that I’ve had an infection in a gland, as my other symptoms have hovered over the well-trodden territory of good old chronic fatigue, which is a gland-affecting illness if ever there was one. Over the years chronic fatigue has assumed the form of a kind of viral Professor Moriarty for me, an old adversary who turns up in innovative disguises before revealing himself yet again. It’s affected my heart rate, my blood pressure, my temperature, and you don’t want to begin to know what it does to my hormones, so frankly it’s capable of anything.

Once I had come to the conclusion that I was probably going to live and could safely retrieve my sense of humour, I said to my husband:

‘I know what it is. This must be the result of you trying to brain wash me in the night while I’m sleeping. You’ve threatened to do it for years [he longs to have it done for a 25th wedding anniversary present, a way to literally wipe the marriage slate clean]. If I looked in a mirror, I’d probably see a little Matrix-type panel inserted there.’

My husband sighed a happy sigh.

‘I’ll have to wait and see whether I have any sudden and inexplicable urges to…’

‘Put on stockings and high heels in the middle of the day,’ he suggested.

‘Of course, that’s what you’d get me to do.’

‘Now there’s a meme for you,’ my husband said. ‘Ten alterations you’d make to your partner if you could brainwash them.’

I thought about this. ‘Only ten?’

‘I think I said “The Top 10” didn’t I?’ my husband asked disingenuously. ‘I mean, once you’d got a channel open…’

So, I am doing the usual convalescent things now like feeling restless but not having the energy to actually commit to a task, and eating odd things because I think I feel like them and then wondering whether I should have chosen more wisely. I’ve also been reading, although not quite so much as I would like as headaches can spoil a good book. But I’ve been enjoying two investigative-type novels about literary figures, the page-turningly wonderful Daphne by Justine Picardie, and a complex, beautifully written novel by Jacqui Lofthouse called Bluethroat Morning that has Hitchcockian resonances with Vertigo. I’ll review them both next week. And thank you for all your wonderful comments from the past few days; I’ll respond as normal once I’ve got a bit more pep back. Just cross your fingers for me that I don’t come down with the dreaded swine ‘flu next.


20 thoughts on “Down and Out

  1. My sympathies. I’ve been doing the lolling around being sick thing for the last day-and-a-half myself. Lots of sleeping and weird food that requires little effort and no trips to the grocery store. Now I’m at the point where I’ve slept all that I can but feeling too tired to go anywhere or do anything, and I’m running out of food that requires little to no preparation. Ugh. Hope you’re feeling better soon.

    I look forward to your review of Daphne; I read it last year and liked it quite a lot.

  2. Sorry to hear you’ve been under the weather. I vote for a swollen gland in your throat causing referred pain above your ear — I’ve had that happen, and it hurts like hell.

    Though it sounds as if the brainwashing may also be a possible culprit.

  3. Oh, hope you get well soon. My family and I came down with a sinus infection this week, and while it in NO WAY resembled the symptoms of swine flu, I was feeling distinctly paranoid. The headaches are the worst though, aren’t they? I hate not being able to read.

  4. I’m glad you’re feeling better, and are able to see a humorous side to this. They do say laughter is the best medicine!

    The thought of brainwashing one’s spouse is intriguing, though. If only…

  5. Sorry for the unwellness but I did chuckle at the brainwashing and your husband’s comments. Not so funny re the Swine Flu though. Take care and hope to see you back soon.

  6. Hope you are well again soon – it’s horrid being ill, especially if it makes your head ache and it stops you reading.

  7. Lilian – thank you! I’m very practised at taking care of myself and will be back on form very shortly, I’m sure.

    Teresa – I am sending much, much sympathy for you. I know exactly what you mean about the eating. I don’t know why it is that I always come down with something just as we desperately need a supermarket shop! I hope you also feel much better soon and that you can get in some supplies! I’ll have to look back in your blog for your Daphne review as I really want to know what you said about it now.

    David – ah now, I am very glad you said that as I was thinking along those lines without ever having suffered anything similar before and so being unsure. Thank you! I find that extremely helpful. Your comment about the brainwashing made me laugh a lot, too.

    Charlotte – if there’s one thing worse than being ill, it’s being ill with something contagious that goes around the family. You poor things! I do hope you are all feeling better. This swine ‘flu thing is so annoying – on the face of it, it’s just a normal flu bug (so far) but it’s been so dressed up in disaster that it appeals to the catastrophising part of my brain. Sigh.

    Becca – if you ever find out how it’s done, please promise me you’ll never tell my husband; I’ll be brainwashed in a flash! 🙂 I usually know I’m feeling better when I start to joke about it – I just wish I had a sense of humour when I’m feeling really bad!

    Pete – thank you! Well, it’s a great excuse not to leave the house for a while and thus avoid the germy city altogether! And if I don’t sound like my regular self on this blog, you’ll let me know, right? 😉

    Bookboxed – thank you, that’s so kind! Anything that gets between me and the books is severely frowned upon, as you can imagine. 🙂

  8. I’m so sorry you’ve been laid low. My niece actually had the swine flu, by the way. There were a few cases at the private school she attends, where my sister-in-law, her mother, teaches. So when my niece got a fever, my sister-in-law immediately took her to the doctor, something she wouldn’t have done if there weren’t a pandemic on. The doctor tested my niece, and she came up positive for the flu virus–they can’t pin it down exactly, but it’s the same family as the H1N1. My sister-in-law and her three daughters had to stay home for a week, a quarantine enforced by the school. Fortunately, my niece never got any sicker! She had the fever for a couple of days, then felt fine–but of course everyone was stuck in the house for a week, and my sister-in-law was tearing her hair out with three little girls home. All’s well that ends well, and fortunately it was a much scarier experience on paper than in reality.

    I hope you feel better soon. Also, like one of the commenters above, I vote that it was a swollen gland causing your pain. A good friend of mine had the worst pain in her head, just above her ear, from a swollen gland. She thought she had been hit without knowing it, too!

  9. Oh dear, oh dear. Swine flu is not a nice thought, though nor is chronic fatigue sneaking up on you again. Hopefully by this time you are close to recovered, and appreciating good health now that you’ve been reminded how precious it is.
    I had a lousy cold this week, and was sure the swine had attacked me, but a day off of work put it all to rest. Speaking of which, are you off of work for the summer (once you’ve moved into your new digs)?
    Take care!

  10. Sorry to hear you’ve been under the weather Litlove, hope you recover soon!

    I still haven’t read Daphne yet, so look forward to your review.

  11. Bluestocking – thank you! That’s very kind.

    Gentle Reader – I think this must be the perfect comment – reassurance about swine flu AND my sore head! I am so glad to hear that your niece didn’t suffer too much from the virus, although her mother has all my sympathy. Being cooped up for a week with three small children would be a terrible thing. And it cheers me no end to hear of other people who have had similar tender heads – it was directly above my ear, but thankfully getting better now. 🙂

    Qugrainne – nope I cannot say I am enamoured with either one of them! I can promise you that after a decade of chronic fatigue I never ever take good health for granted or lack gratitude for it. Very sorry to hear about your cold, too. These things can be disproportionately lowering to one’s quality of life. Theoretically term has ended, but I still have a number of jobs to do, as ever, including planning the induction days and preparing documents for the web. But no students for a while, certainly. 🙂

    Dveoted reader – thank you for your kind comment which is much appreciated! I finished Daphne today so will review it tomorrow. It was very good!

    Anne – oh thank you, that’s very kind of you! I am feeling better now, just at that restless stage. I shall tell my husband you liked his idea for a meme – he’ll be delighted! 🙂

  12. Since I’m tardy in reading this I hope you are feeling better! Your husband has an interesting sense of humor–do you ever get the urge to do a sort of post modern deconstruction of him? (Just kidding). I hope you write about the Lofthouse book–I already have Daphne on my pile!

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