Is it a sign of the world we are living in that if you cough or sneeze in public these days instead of offering sympathy and medical advice, people just back away with their handbags over their noses screaming: “Don’t you dare give me your lurgy”. On the tube on Saturday night one woman sat next to me and blocked her left nostril all the way from Camden Town to Kennington. I am well aware that currently my resting breath sounds similar to an asthmatic with an iron lung attempting to play the harmonica, but it’s me that’s suffering from an unspecified or indeterminate illness here. Not you. So why is it that every time I clear my throat I feel I have to apologise profusely and announce that you’ll all be okay because my particular strain of bronchitis is not contagious.
I have self diagnosed it as bronchitis because it is worse than a bad cough but not quite TB. And I’ve decided it’s not contagious because I don’t want to upset anyone. There’s no point in going to the doctor as the doctor will just pretend to listen to my chest while holding the cold, steel disc of a stethoscope up to my back (surely the fact that the chest is round the front is one of the first things they teach you at medical school?) Then the doctor will say, “Have you tried steaming?” They will also say “Cough mixture doesn’t help really.” And most likely, “There’s something going round at the moment.” They will then suggest a cough mixture that no one has ever heard of which is weird because if it’s that good and it works then why aren’t we all already using it? And will then say “If it’s still bothering you after a week then pop back in and I’ll give you some antibiotics.” A week? A week of rib breaking coughing and spluttering, no sleep and everyone on the tube scowling at me as if I’m trying to destroy civilisation with germs as my only weapon?
Rather than go to the doctor, I had a ‘once removed’ appointment with the doctor over the phone. Because apparently doctors are so clever these days that they don’t actually need to be in the same room to know what’s wrong with you. Even though they don’t know that the chest is round the front. So I explained that I had had a bad cough for almost a month and that it had become unbearable over the last few days and then, a bit too much like it was for effect, like when you’re pretending to be ill when you call in sick, I coughed. Loud and long and hard into the receiver.
“Wow,” said the doctor. “That does sound bad. Have you tried steaming?”
I told him I had.
“Well,” he continued, “there is something going round at the moment but cough mixture doesn’t help really. Unless you use Codeine Linctus, have you heard of that?”
No, I hadn’t heard of it. Which probably means it works. And having spilt a drop of it on the counter earlier I know that if it doesn’t work as a cough medicine then it makes a very effective furniture polish.
That was yesterday and it’s either due to the Codine Linctus or the two hot toddies, three red wines and mug of brandy that I had last night that leads me to believe that I think I am now over the worst of it.
And there are lots of worst bits to choose from. Having to cancel a gig. That was bad. Having to do a gig. That was worse. Possibly made so by the fact that half way through the evening the PA went down and I had to pull a raffle for 300 people without a microphone. Try projecting without projecting, if you see what I mean. Both these pale in comparison to definitely the worst worst thing to happen during this bout of bronchial hell: a coughing fit in the jacuzzi.
Yes, on doctor’s orders I went to have a deep steam followed by a relaxing jacuzzi to ease the pain of ribs bruised through three nights of consistent coughing. And it did feel better. I had the entire jacuzzi to myself for a while. Then I was joined by a pretty young couple. There are two jacuzzis at the gym. The other one was inhabited by a rather large gentleman who appeared to have fallen asleep and not noticed that his jacuzzi had stopped bubbling. Made me wonder why he didn’t just stay at home and sit in the bath. Obviously not wanting to disturb him the pretty young couple slid into my jacuzzi and sat looking lovingly at each other.
At first I thought I could mask my coughs but something in the jacuzzi had got to me and I just could not do anything to prevent the eruption of wheezing and barking that rendered me helpless and breathless before this poor, young, pretty, amorous couple. I turned away hoping they wouldn’t notice but the whole pool area is tiled and the acoustics bounced and amplified the coughing fit right back at them. When I turned back around, concern had wracked their pretty young faces so, being a people pleaser I tried to put their minds at rest by announcing “I think a bit went down the wrong way,” thereby suggesting that not only were they being forced to share their moment of romance with what sounded like a performing seal but that she was also attempting to drink the jacuzzi.
“Do you need a glass of water?” asked the pretty boy.
“No, I’ll be fine,” I wheezed as I clambered through the bubbles. They smiled at me and I noticed the pretty girl put her hand up to her face. “Don’t worry,” I smiled back, “It’s not contagious.”
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