Don't laugh when my glands are like grapefruits

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The Independent Culture
I'D BE savage about it, but I don't have the energy. The after- effects of a long bout of 'flu are still with me in the shape of a catarrh- laden cough, a pain at the base of my skull and a tenderness in groin and armpits. "Do you have to mention your groin?" What? Look, I'm trying to write something for the paper, do you mind? Can't you take the kids out to an award-winning seasonal musical or something until I've finished?

You see, I am usually very fit. "Pfffff!" Until this winter, in fact, I hadn't been ill for over two years. "I think you'll find it's nearer two weeks." No, that was the same bout of 'flu as this one, it's just that I thought I'd got rid of it a fortnight earlier, and I hadn't. That's what I was trying to explain. Anyway, in its first incarnation the bug just made me feel totally rotten. I couldn't get warm, and I could barely stay awake.

I'd pop two quadruple-strength Nurofen, crawl under the blankets fully clothed, and lie there half the day, dreaming strange dreams until dark. My temperature, I would guess, was in the early 100s. "Just above normal, you mean." No, I don't. I think I can tell when my body heat is going off the scale. There are certain signs, you know, by which a man can detect if he's unusually hot.

"Oh, please, you're not going to talk about your testicles again, are you?"

It's relevant. The further they move away from the body, the hotter you are, and I was practically wearing mine from my belt. Besides, if you'd bought a thermometer when I suggested it, then the whole issue would have been beyond contention.

Then all my glands swelled up to the size of grapefruits ("Melons, don't you mean? Or planets perhaps?") and my throat became very sore indeed. So now I added Strepsils to the Nurofen and croaking to the moaning. I was alarmed only when the channels going from my neck to my ears became inflamed, and I seemed to recall that this was a symptom of meningitis. After two days this seemed to subside and I thought I was getting better. No thanks to you.

"What do you mean, no thanks to me? I had a job to go to and kids to look after."

Sure, but could you not, just once, have made me so much as a cup of tea? Or asked how I was in a tone suggesting something other than stern disbelief? "I did offer you a hot drink. You turned it down." That was six bloody years ago.

Whatever. Things died down for a few days, but last Friday I was knocked off my feet again. The temperature was back, the glands were back, the near-delirium was back - like something out of Wilkie Collins. But there were new refinements. Now I had a dry cough that scoured round my alveoli like an industrial bleach, producing nothing except pain and the danger of cracked ribs. "Will you listen to yourself? Cracked ribs." It happened to my friend Danny, actually, and it was no laughing matter.

Benylin joined Nurofen and Strepsils; one inadvertent sweep of a hot limb, and there would go a hundred quid's worth of pharmacologicals. I endured another five days of feeling washed out and totally grotty. Even my tear ducts seemed to be producing some form of acidic fluid that stung my eyes. And now, walking down the High Street, mostly recovered, I am struck by how empty the place is. I presume because of the 'flu.

"It'll be the men mostly. Women can't afford to be ill." Excuse me, enough already; I mean, what about your migraines? The whole world has to stop for them. "They're different, as you'd know if you'd ever had one. But then you're the bloke who once compared his ear-ache..." (It was acute suppurative otititis, actually) "...his earache with the pain of childbirth."

OK, OK, that was a mistake. All I'm saying is that it isn't much fun being ill when you're a grown-up. Not much fun at all.