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.