Fair Point: My ‘Sick Day’ blues

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SICK days sure have changed since I was a kid.

I was sick this week. This was not, I should explain, the fun kind of sick, where you’re still well enough to work through your backlog of ‘Sky-Planned’ TV shows, while drinking endless cups of tea. Nope, I was real sick. The ‘lay in bed, stare into space and pray for someone to put you out of your misery with a blunt object’ kind.

As a kid, sick days are quite fun. When all you’ll be missing is a maths test you haven’t studied for and an agonising hour of PE - wearing shorts in minus-degree weather and getting whacked on the ankles with a hockey stick - it’s too tempting to give in at the first signs of a sniffle. My Nan would settle me on the settee with a warm duvet, a hot cup of tea and the remote control. It felt great, knowing my classmates were battling algebra and unidentifiable school dinners while I enjoyed hot-buttered toast and hours of Saved By The Bell.

As a 30-year-old, the same rules do not apply. You’re a grown-up and you have responsibilities. You drag yourself in and sit at your desk with a dripping nose and a throbbing head, because people are relying on you to finish that project, go to that meeting, write that story.

That’s why, two days ago, when my alarm went off at 6am - and with no mum or dad to pull a ‘sad face’ to - I resolutely hauled myself out of bed; despite the crawling of my skin, the aching of my joints and the alarming temperature of my forehead. It was only as I was actually getting ready to leave the house that my eleven-year-old self told me I was an idiot and sternly ordered me back to bed.

Hours later I staggered downstairs, desperate for a cup of tea to soothe the soreness in my throat. No teabags. I couldn’t believe it. No paracetamol either. My head was swimming far too much to drive, so I bundled up in jeans, jumpers, cardigans, coat, scarf, hats and gloves to walk to the Tesco Express just down the road.

Twenty minutes later I flipped the kettle on and sank, exhausted, into a chair, trying to summon the energy to find a cup for my newly-acquired teabag. My thoughts were soon interrupted by two furry little creatures brushing against my aching legs. My two kittens - Tito and Tilly - couldn’t care less that mummy was dying. They were peeved that their breakfast was four hours late and a series of reprimanding meows eventually pulled me to my feet as I fought off a wave of nausea and filled their bowls with something unpleasantly fishy. Tilly let me know my impending death was of very little interest to her unless it meant more delayed meal times. I promised to do better.

Finally I collapsed on to the settee. The remote was on the other side of the room, too far away. The duvet was on the bed and the thought of dragging it down the stairs seemed like a challenge of ‘scaling Kilimanjaro’ proportions. So far I wasn’t impressed with this sick day.

Something else I was never warned I would face as a sick adult? Having to answer the door numerous times; the window cleaner coming to settle up (which brings the added bonus of running around the house trying to find cash), the neighbours’ kids who’d kicked their ball into the garden AGAIN and - I think this was my favourite - the tall gangly youth who tried to sell me a charity magazine subscription while I stood shivering in the freezing cold air he was letting into my house. Pah!

And when I got hungry, there was no wonderful Nan on-hand with hot buttered toast and tomato soup. There was just me, rummaging through bare cupboards before eventually settling for three square meals of Kelloggs Crunchy Nut Cornflakes.

This was followed by an afternoon of checking my work emails (a habit), trying to file my online tax return (a legal necessity) and fielding phone calls with a voice that sounded like I’d smoked 60-a-day my whole life.

And right around the time my mum would have been arriving home from work and placing her cool hand against my hot head with a sympathetic smile, I was bundling up yet again to go and collect my car after its MOT service. Half an hour later, when my dad would usually be getting in - bringing with him a giant bar of Galaxy, a wink and a smile - I was sticking my bank card into the mechanic’s card machine and parting with the hundreds of pounds it had cost to make my ‘seen-better-days’ Honda Jazz road-worthy and legal for another 12 months. Oh the joys of adulthood. Being sick sure ain’t what it used to be!

Is it too much to ask that, as we grow up, there be one constant in among all the changes? One thing that will always be there and always be the same? I found it at 7.30pm that very evening. For the first time in years, slumped in a delirious pile, I flicked on ITV as a familiar bar of music began to play. Seconds later I was greeted by the too-familiar sight of Deirdre and Ken Barlow sipping pints in the Rovers Return. She was more wrinkly and his jowls were a little bigger, but other than that, nothing much had changed in 20 years. He said something patronising, her neck flexed scarily; it was just as it had been when I was a child. And just as it will be for my children and probably for my children’s children.

It is nice to have one thing in this world that you can rely on, I thought with a smile, as I began to doze. Even if it is Coronation Street.